The dynamic duo of Josh Scogin and Michael McClellan are back in a big way with their sophomore release, Two Parts Viper. After attaining legendary status in the “core” community with bands like Norma Jean and The Chariot, Scogin has returned with his most eclectic and ingenious musical creation to date. I realize that statement carries a lot of weight, especially when put toe-to-toe with albums like The Chariot’s One Wing, but before you go all two parts viper on me, hear me out. While One Wing is admittedly one of my favorite albums of all time, Two Parts Viper is a whole new breed of auditory predator. As it snaps into your existence with true ’68 fashion, Two Parts Viper will sink its teeth into your soul and rip apart your mind, making its poison just as potent as One Wing, but its bite that much sharper.
The sonic rollercoaster that is Two Parts Viper kicks off with the album’s opener, “Eventually We All Win”, which takes you on a turbulent-yet-smooth ride. It serves as a great precursor to the entire album that follows, building with soft and precise rhythmic clicks and Scogin’s raspy vocals, which emerge from out of nowhere. Don’t get too comfortable though in this rhythmically poetic and tranquil zone. In classic Scogin fashion, you’re immediately hit with a wall of feedback and grungy distortion as the track becomes completely unhinged. The remainder of this brief album opener pulls you through a raging battle, where blues and grunge breaks duke it out, eventually simmering down into a fuzzy, feedback driven outro that trails off, propelling you to the edge of your seat as the second track rolls in and knocks you off it.
That second track being “Whether Terrified or Unafraid”, which starts with a big “Woo” from Scogin and a dirty groove-laden guitar that bursts into the scene. This track really shows the album’s experimentation at work. The guitar sounds like it’s being layered with an octave pedal, which makes for a very interesting sound when combined with the quick delay of the vocals. Our chaotic journey levels out as we’re taken through somber territory with “Without Any Words (Only Crying and Laughter)”, a completely stripped back track that shows the band at their most vulnerable. Following is the first track ’68 released off of Two Parts Viper, “This Life Is Old, New, Borrowed And Blue”, which is a super grungy, groove-oriented track, much like “Whether Terrified or Unafraid”. It’s what I would expect a hardcore/grunge band with Tom Morello riffin’ on guitar to sound like. If that sounds weird to you, I promise it works.
“No Montage” is up next, and it’s one of my favorite tracks on the entire album. It’s clear Scogin channeled his inner Kurt Cobain on this one. From the straightforward song structure to the clean guitar that’s being pushed to its absolute limit, there’s something so familiar and Nirvana-esque about this song that makes it undeniable. The dichotomy between the slow simplistic strum of the guitar, Scogin’s raspy mic work, and McClellan’s rhythmic drum work makes for a mesmerizing combination that will not soon leave your mind.
The next stop on this turbulent endeavor, “No Apologies”, features a breakdown you have to hear to believe. What starts as Scogin simply talking without any instrumental backing quickly transforms as the hiss of the guitar warns you of the complete pandemonium that’s about to ensue around you. Demonstrated perfectly here is the ability of Scogin and McClellan to feed off of the energy of each other, and trust me there is no shortage of that in any part of this record. Continuing on with the same fervor is “Death Is A Lottery”, which, for a variety of reasons, is one of my favorite songs off Two Parts Viper. It harnesses the energy and atmosphere of the record in its entirety in under four minutes. It’s equally as heavy as it is dynamic, and just as catchy as it is raw and grungy. This is ’68 at their most diverse, and it fits them perfectly.
The album closes with quite the opposite feel of how it began. “What More Can I Say” is the perfect bookend for Two Parts Viper. It’s completely striped back and absent of McClellan’s drumming for most of the track, providing you with a welcomed sense of calm after being dragged through the peaks and valleys of ’68’s masterful creation. Full of primal energy and reptilian instinct, Two Parts Viper is inhuman, allowing it to surpass the barrier of thought and reach a realm of uncharted musical territory. As aforementioned, it is whole new breed of auditory predator, making it one cold-blooded, efficient killer. After all, it is survival of the fittest, and right now as it stands, ’68 are the fittest of them all.
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