Connecticut duo Turkey Vulture know their way around a glorious noise. On their 2020 EP ‘Time To Pay’, they set out their stall with a collection of riffs that combined the drive of punk with the bottom end of stoner metal, topped with layers of extra fuzz for good measure. A particular highlight, ‘Lost At Sea’ sounded like Motorhead cranking their way through Black Sabbath’s ‘Children of The Grave’ augmented by a sea shanty melody and wonderfully scratchy vocal. It’s fair to say that those who got them, loved them.
If anything, their 2022 release is even more intense. Adding to their arsenal of fuzzy aggro, a bigger focus on brevity makes the material appear more aggressive and, by turns, much sharper than its predecessor. ‘Fiji’ opens everything with a classic stoner riff making the listener think it’ll be an obvious continuation of previous Turkey works, but quickly twists into a faster, more rock ‘n’ roll derived groove, allowing fuzzy guitars a free rein to work distorted a chugging riff and occasional harmonic sounds. Jessie May’s vocals are much clearer in the mix than before, though lose none of their menace. However, if anything here lends a bigger unease to the sonic palate, its the lack of hook: this arrives, riffs like mad, twists against a semi-threatening vocal, goes in for a second verse and then stops dead, almost as if the job is half done. That premature ending, coming after such a massive punch, is particularly unnerving, but the duo quickly slide into ‘Livestock On Our Way To Slaughter’ which, as its title suggests, is just as uncompromising. Across three minutes, Turkey Vulture wield a massive set of riffs, working the biggest rock ‘n’ roll swagger combined with a stoner sensibility. Coupled with an unexpected death metal growl on the chorus, this makes for even more of an intense experience. For the track’s cleaner vocal, Jessie takes a different tack yet again, almost tapping into a country sneer. With her vocals and guitar work taking such a dominant role, it might be easy to overlook Jim Clegg’s contribution, but his crashy, rhythmic drum work throughout is terrific – very much capturing the spirit of Brandt Bjork’s early work with Kyuss, before steering the stoner groove into a full scale hardcore climax driven by insane pneumatics. It feels as if Turkey Vulture have glued three half-finished ideas together here, but through confidence and sheer force, it really works. What’s more, thanks to an improvement in production values, it manages to be better than anything on ‘Time To Pay’ to boot.
Dropping into a more traditional stoner sound, ‘Where The Truth Dwells’ reinforces the band’s fuzzy credentials, but in typical style, they take something predictable by the scruff of its neck and give it a good shake. Whereas most bands would decide that a cleanish croon would be perfect for the job in hand, the duo give it a real edginess thanks to a growling vocal that takes equal influence from intense hardcore and death metal. As Jessie barks each line – almost falling into the same meter as Slayer’s legendary ‘Angel of Death’ – the tune takes on an unexpected level of threat; with razor sharp edges primed to attack at every turn, by the time it reaches the second chorus with a careening carny-like melody, chances are you’ll be convinced this is one of the best things ever. Clocking in at under two minutes, there isn’t much time for anything else, but there doesn’t need to be any real embellishment – this is about a sonic attack; a band bringing the riffs and attitude, driving hard and then splitting, leaving the listener blindsided. The same applies to the even shorter and faster ‘She’s Married (But Not To Me)’ which takes the stoner and punk roots, throws in an odd element of cowpoke country, a crooning and threatening vocal and thundering drums, making Turkey Vulture sound like Melvins playing The Cramps. It shouldn’t work, but the fact that it does says so much about this band’s unwavering confidence and extremely tight musical chops. It’s a must hear for anyone who feels as if all of the stoner and fuzz-punk avenues have been exhausted.
This is brilliant. It’s a perfect example of how a stoner metal heart and a punk attitude can work together in a superb disharmony, and also proof that some tried and tested sounds and influences need not sound stale. In the band’s own words, it’s “too metal to be punk, and too punk to be metal”, but like parts of the Zeke catalogue and the brilliant Man-Eaters, Turkey Vulture’s sense of full throttle ferocity brings its own greatness. Highly recommended.