Hombre Malo – Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath

Hombre Malo - Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath

Hombre Malo – Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath

That’s Oslo-based four-piece Hombre Malo rattling the windows with “Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath.” The seven songs on this band’s sophomore album plunge forward with the grunge-inflected insistence of The Melvins channeled through the pummeling modus operandi of Unsane. Their music is sludgy, abrasive, and satisfyingly good.

The first listen is promising. But certain production choices, like using spliced-in news report audio between tracks, made me wonder if Hombre Malo is serious.

They are. After spending time with this album, the music’s appeal remained. “Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath” opens with the up-tempo, driving “L’Etranger”–a song that reminds me of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut.” Then they go faster and harder with “Crosses and Marching Feet.” Track three is my  favorite; “Golden Calf” is dynamic, expressing anger and urgency, diving into a  hook with abandon.

That is why this band works for me. They can tap into grunge music’s in-spite-of-itself musicality, and do so with the energy of a good hardcore band. When they do that, Hombre Malo is at its best.

But they’re at their worst on tracks like “Vladislav.” This bottom-heavy sludgeball drops it into low gear,  treading water without so much as a splash. The next two numbers, “Reaching the Shore” and “Elena,” are better. “Elena” is the album’s sleeper hit, unfolding variations on a riff that tell a story. The arc of that story feels complete, like the notes were fully but efficiently explored. Finally the album closes with the nearly 11-minute “Deathbed Conversion.” The band takes a big chance here using spoken vocals and drawing on psychedelic rock. The song is a little hokey, sure, but the band performs this crescendo in earnest, and it pays off.

“Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath” is seven songs, just under 45 minutes in length, and full of bright spots. Dark, bruised bright spots.

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