Listen Up: Wednesday, January 25, 2006
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Merkin

Hang Upside Down to See Our Smiles (Self-released)

By Caroline Collier

Hang Upside Down to See our Smiles, the first studio recording from relatively new local metal merchants Merkin, provides a solid glimpse into the dark intensity that characterizes this hometown trio of long-time friends and scenesters. Rooted in metal — distorted guitars, guttural roars, ferocious drumming — Merkin’s sound somehow always ends up being more mellow than heavy. The most likely cause is bassist Chris Donley’s steady, well-placed fretwork, which uniformly results in hypnotically intense, carefully toned, densely atmospheric music whose strong emotional underpinnings really resonate.

“A-Z” opens the disc with a clean, descending guitar progression, which winds down before being reintroduced more loudly and with more distortion. With a big bass drum and meaty crashes, drummer Cameron Long’s Bonhamesque furor defines most of the tunes. “Lust” showcases guitarist/vocalist Joe Fuentes’ humble, self-deprecating aggression, which reverberates like a volcano under a placid sea. Over furious guitar riffage, he sings of self-abuse: “I’ll sleep it off once again / I’ll burn it one more day.” And “Glitter Glue,” six minutes of somber melody, intentionally introduces bits of discord that aren’t jarring but are just enough to recapture the attention of listeners who a few minutes earlier were directed to space out. A grunge-influenced rocker that’s both desolate and beautifully haunting, “A Moment of Peace” is the album’s star.

As for production quality, there’s only one tiny problem: The record would have profited from a heavier emphasis on the bass — Donley’s rolling thunder crafts the matrix over which the entire band operates. His riffs deserve some spotlight.

The Merkin guys will be back on the local circuit soon and anticipate more recording once they decide whether to add another guitarist. For ordering info, visit www.myspace.com/merkin or www.merkinband.com, but be forewarned: This music might cause you to smile, even if everyone else may have to hang upside down to appreciate it. —


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