Given his musical influences the likes of Rush, Faith No More and Tool, there was never any speculation whether or not John Tokarczyk’s outfit PepperDome was going to be anything but eclectic. And their latest outing doesn’t disappoint their eclectic-expecting fan base. Through the heavy progressive-tinged tracks, facets of myriad genre influence emerge.
Opening with the heavy chug guitar and sparse percussion of “Picture Box” the album reveals its ethos of heavy metal riff sentimentality, quirk lyrical matter and social commentary laden lyrical matter. The undercurrent message of technology dependence is on the surface of the lyrics; nothing to dig too deep into at that point. It’s the vocal delivery that I can’t put my finger on. Is this a tongue in cheek vocal delivery or is this Tokarczyk’s true singing voice? Is this an attempt at channeling past vocal influences? Is this trying to sound like a hybrid Maynard/Ian Curtis with a splash of Mike Patton weirdness thrown in for good measure? “Impotent Hypocrite” continues the heavy rock leanings with opening rhythm section tandem bass and high hat before the spoken word opening verse. The guitar again chugs on the scene with effects-laden fills before the strange vocals dominate to the foreground of the track. Again, their delivery is chunky and it sounds and feels contrived especially on the track title chorus. “Illusion Of Wealth” is another social commentary piece about the trappings of consumerism and advertising. Following the preceding tracks the musicality of vast and blasts out of the gate with rich layers supplied from each instrument that culminates in a grand amount of sound provided it is only coming from three instruments. But again with the strange vocal delivery and obvious lyrical message, it makes the lyrics and their delivery feel as more of an afterthought that attribute. “Sunshine Lightning” opens with a building to the extended blast of the musicality: The effects of the electric assume the lead while bass and thundering percussion join the fold into a solid metal foundation soundscape. Finally, Tokarczyk channels a weaker Danzig vocal delivery sans the ubiquitous twang. The guitar-led musicality carries the track with more chunk vocals that seem to simply fumble through the track. Midpoint guitar work is technically tight and continues in the fills.
Instrumental prowess is in place. The instrumental production of the tracks is pristine. I just can’t get past these vocals. I can even forgive some of the obvious lyrical matter but the delivery is jarring, bracing and has a “sore thumb” quality about it. I am still left unclear if the delivery is contrived and all a part of the tongue-in-cheek, quirk aspect that PepperDome is known for or if this is an honest (though failed) attempt at influence emulation…as if She Wants Revenge and Tool paired vocally over lots and lots of chug guitar. Enjoy for what it is: metal leanings in the musicality with suspect vocals that are unavoidable.
by Chris West – firstname.lastname@example.org
I give this 2 Skopes.