Friday, March 19, 2010

Review: Walken - "Walken"

While graced with a bold alias universally recognized, the challenge of competing with iniquitous thespian and perennial SNL host Christopher Walken for the corresponding section of the encyclopedia is futile and bound to lead only to disappointment. Even so, this Walken puts on a memorable and impressive show through more than half the 11 songs that compose their self-titled full-length.

A sound of equal parts bludgeoning hardcore punk à la a tighter, more crisp Akimbo and the Bay Area thrash sound of yesteryear, Walken fruitfully ignites a musically articulate intensity all too rare. The paradigm of this punk/metal dualism is the album opener “Watch It Burn,” which highlights both the triumphs and pitfalls of such an amalgamation. While the straightforward punk tenacity propels the songs forward at their most forceful, the dynamic metal riff interplay at times counterbalances and at times seems to nearly negate whatever energy had been amassed. The melodic metal parts often sound awkward and phoned-in, especially following the galloping thrash intro to “Nadir.”

Where the two styles do blend well is on the brooding bruiser “Running Out of Time,” which despite its substandard lyrics (“I see that time is flying / Gotta live before we die”) is concurrently aggressive and measured. Walken spends four of their 11 tracks either completely instrumental or mostly so (“Beast Toker” advises confidently, “So low, get high”). In what’s frankly an otherwise rocking album, the tedium of wordless meandering in cuts like “Dylan’s Song” and “The Bridge” severely hinder what could have been an epic release. And while “epic” might be an appropriate adjective to describe the seven-and-a-half-minute “1/27/07,” it could have easily been cut in two instead of relegating the second half to only aficionados of stoner metal.

Walken are on the cusp of developing into a full-throttle force of aggressive music on their self-titled LP. With some healthy refinement, minor tweaks and more willingness to leave the filler on the cutting room floor, this is a sound that could find broad appeal among the hardcore and metal fans of the world.

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