It’s so weird listening to Puppy. This band always seems to be wedged between two contradicting musical forms, that being a weird combination of Weezer-esque alternative rock and beefy heavy metal riffs. The novelty of hearing blazing Iron Maiden dual guitar leads over timid indie rock vocals may seem like something that would wear off quickly, if not turn many people off immediately, but consistently strong songwriting and dynamics make this band a strong contender for one of 2016’s best new rock acts. Or at least they have the potential to get there. Puppy haven’t released a full length LP yet, so it remains to be seen whether or not they can live up to what they’re shooting for. But with their self titled EP released a few months ago, the band showed their talent for epic yet intimate sounds.
That continues on the followup EP (or mini-album, whatever they’re calling it these days), Vol. II. Opening track “Entombed” busts out the band’s nastiest riff yet right out of the gate, going for a decidedly more sinister sound than I was expecting. It sort of reminds me of Swedish retro-metallers Ghost (or Ghost B.C. as they’re called in North America for copyright reasons), especially with the singer’s whispy vocals reminiscent of Papa Emeritus’ occult preach-singing. But the pattern still leads toward alternative more than metal in this case. This pattern continues for most of this batch of songs, with each track featuring big riffs and even bigger choruses. It’s a formula, sure, but they nail it each time, so it doesn’t really matter if Puppy stick to what they’re good at, especially this early in their catalogue. It all takes a turn for the depressing with the final track “Here At Home”, a dirge so bleak that I wonder for the singer’s safety. Seriously, it makes “Exit Music (For a Film)” sound like “Walking On Sunshine”.
This type of genre-roullette often comes off as heavily contrived, but the naturalistic production on Vol. II keeps everything sludgy and earthy rather than shiny and slick. That’s not to say it’s sounds like it was recorded inside a potato like some obscure second-wave black metal band recorded in a Norwegian basement, but there isn’t any drum triggering or vocal tuning here either so that’s a huge plus in my book. I hear an actual acoustic space in this recording, unlike so many modern metal records. This is key to the EP’s aesthetic. It’s a fine balance of gritty rock and pop melodies in a twenty-something minute slice.
Honestly there’s really not much else to say about this one. It’s a quick, highly enjoyable listen and I look forward to whatever this band has in store for us.
-Here at Home
Released August 12th, 2016