January 17, 2008

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ASG, Win Us Over
Volcom Entertainment, Jan. 22
It may indeed be that modern math-metal is ignored by most people, who favor instead old Zep and whatnot, but the truth is that today’s bands are “better” than their ancestors simply because they have to be. It’s part of evolutionary design. Even people who fancy themselves progressively minded write off things that are highly advanced and filled with more pure content because their paradigms are challenged. You have to laugh at the old-school football broadcasters, denying that the 2007 New England Patriots aren’t as good as the early-70s Steelers — just watch some vintage reels and it’s quickly evident that Tom Brady would eat Terry Bradshaw’s lunch, dinner and midnight snack too if the twain ever met.

ASG, now four albums deep into their career, aren’t speed freaks. They have, however, transcended their “stoner metal” categorization by adding new-school elements while somehow avoiding outright thrash. Win Us Over is evidence that they constantly absorb not just their immediate surroundings (they’ve toured with The Sword, and there’s plenty of post-Molly Hatchet cowboy-metal to prove it) but the underlying essence of their generation. The emo part of their equation — negligible, yes, but it does show — comes from Taking Back Sunday, as good a choice as you’d ever get, but they’ve apparently dug Offspring and Tool in the past and even ghouled up a few old Riot albums.

Now, that’s all well and good, but keeping everything fresh, interesting and ripping for 13 or so songs is something bands don’t accomplish often. A glass ceiling does remain, however; the final challenge facing ASG (or Planes Mistaken For Stars, or End Of Level Boss, etc. etc.) is to pull young hard-rock fans away from 40-year-old albums, but of course if that were an easy thing to accomplish there’d be no reason for Hot Topic to continue hawking Zep tee shirts. A — E. W. S.