Album Review: ASG – Blood Drive




North Carolina quartet ASG were trapped in the role of the opening act. In the shadow of top-billed headliners (CKY, Graveyard, Helmet, etc.), ASG would play succinct 30-minute sets, receive some scattered applause, and then move on to the next city. So goes the struggle of the up-and-coming rock band, scrapping its way into the scene.

All that scrapping paid off when Relapse Records signed ASG last year. In a way, they’d made it — signed to one of the most forward-thinking contemporary metal labels. With it came a headlining tour and their fourth full-length LP, Blood Drive, an adventurous collection of sludgy riffs that should earn ASG a place alongside genre stalwarts Torche and The Sword.

The band operates in various modes throughout the record, from the melodic alt-metal of opener “Avalanche” to the southern twang of the lead track. The common thread is frontman Jason Shi’s voice. He has an amorphous falsetto that can sound both triumphant and volatile (the way he delivers the refrain in “Blood Drive” — “Got a long list of foes and a shorter list of friends” — being a prime example). Shi’s vocals dictate the mood and tonality of the songs. On highlight “Castlestorm”, he throws in some terrifying black metal screams, and his bandmates — on cue — start thrashing wildly.

These occasional moments of spontaneity go over well on Blood Drive, which locks into a steadier groove during its latter half, before closing with the Mark Lanegan-esque ballad “Good Enough to Eat”. ASG aren’t rewriting the rules of heavy metal; rather they’re drawing from their influences and offering up their own take. As a result, Blood Drive is an entertaining (if somewhat safe) record — hopefully the first of many now that ASG is in the Relapse stable.

Essential Tracks: “Blood Drive”, “Castlestorm”

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