July 17, 2008 | | 4

Pitch Black Forecast, Absentee

After 11 years as Mushroomhead’s lead vocalist, Jason Popson wanted something a bit different in terms of metal than what his current band had to offer. The culmination of his efforts after leaving Mushroomhead is his new band’s debut Absentee — a mixture of metal, hardcore and down to earth aggression.

Employing the maniacal drum work of Strapping Young Lad’s Gene Hoglan as it’s base, Pitch Black Forecast is a bruising listening experience that will not only provoke massive mosh pits but also some introspection on the listeners’ part. Steering clear of the “cartoony evil and… horror” of his previous band, Popson opted for something more tangible, more human. Helping him along the way are guest vocal appearances from Ringworm’s Human Furnace, Lamb of God’s D. Randall Blythe.

Starting off the album, “Atonement” has got some beefy riffs and thundering rhythms that will incite instant moshing. Hoglan’s drumming is aggressive and nonstop, fitting the raw, snarling vocals perfectly. This is certainly a strong way to open up your debut album. Not only does it not-so-subtly inform the world that this isn’t some Mushroomhead clone (thank God), but it also proves to show that there was so much more to Popson that was just itching to get out. Finally, it’s here with a heavy boot to your skull.

The second track starts off with thick bass and light drumming before the pace steps up 26 second in with huge, moshing riffs. This thing will have you tearing ligaments in your neck in record time — at least a dislocated shoulder from throwing your fist in the air so damned hard. Popson’s vocals are honest and pissed the hell off.

Wrapped In Plastic
Featuring Ringworm’s Human Furnace on guest vocals, “Wrapped in Plastic” is a chugging monstrosity of a track. It’s higher pace is only matched by the intensity of the vocal deliveries. Furnace’s appearance is a nice touch, adding credibility and even more aggression to an already furious track. Damn, I’ve gotta play this one again.

Thrown into the album as a last minute track, “Lighthouse” features words that Popson has had inked on his arm for a while. It’s a song of unity and responsibility that serves as a rallying cry to action. The chorus is catchy and incorporates gang vocals to reinforce the song’s message. Hoglan is a freak of nature on the drums.

Thick riffing and snarling growl get this one chugging along. Make sure you’re prepared for complete annihilation at the :35 point, as the pace quickens and the riffs drive relentlessly. There are some real catchy riffs and moshing blasts throughout this one. The huge scream at the 2:25 mark is impressive as is the galloping riffs that follow.

“Halt” slows the pace down a bit with steady drum work and smooth riff work. There’s a thickness to this one that’s got a slightly muddy sound, but it works so well with the rawness of the music’s nature. The beat to this one is easily moshable and will have you headbanging in no time. There’s some nice guitar work around the 2:30 mark that gives the song some nice depth.

Breathe Now
Starting off with a chugging mid-tempo pace this one moves along nicely with memorable vocals. There are a few, brief blasts of active drumming to help break up the steady pace. Hoglan has some creative drum bits that will definitely have you snapping your neck.

So Low
“So Low” features Lamb of God’s D. Randall Blythe on guest vocals. His presence is felt immediately as he unleashes a hellish scream at the very start of the track. This one definitely has a darker feel to it. His contributions beyond that involve layered vocals over Popson’s lead and nasty growls throughout the track. He does tear through one short short set of lyrics while Hoglan destroys his drum kit in the background.

Desperation Angel
This one starts out with driving riffs and steady drumming as Popson spits out his vocals. The sound to this one is thick and hardcore influenced. The stop/start bit before the one minute mark is a nice touch to make sure that everyone is paying attention.

Creepy Crawl
“Creepy Crawl” is a fairly decent track with a sludgy feel, massive rhythms and gruff vocals. It’s got an infectious groove, as well. And we can’t forget the hardcore style, bass-heavy breakdown riffs. I love the guitar work around the 3:20 mark.

Bad Reputation
The final track is a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Bad Reputation.” I wasn’t sure how Pitch Black Forecast was going to pull it off, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t make the song their own. It also features Human Furnace on guest vocals.

~ ~ ~

I was never a fan of Mushroomhead (even the Popson lead version of the band), so I had some trepidations when this one showed up in the mail. All I’ve got to say is thank all things unholy that Popson wanted to branch out musically. Absentee is an aggressive, bruising, thoughtful listening experience that speaks exponentially toward the lead singer’s own metal ideals. Great vocals, maniacal drum work and massive guitars all combine to make for one hell of a debut album.

Favorite Tracks:
All of them

Additional Notes: