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Low Riders

Bass-heavy Salt Lake City rockers Blackhole crank a pedigreed racket.

By Randy Harward
Posted // June 11,2007 -

Although named for an endless, vacuous, constantly sucking nothing, Blackhole and their self-titled debut CD suck not. Like all reliable scientific data, this conclusion is based on analysis conducted over a 41-hour period where the local foursome’s new Pseudo Recordings disc, Blackhole (MySpace.com/MyBlackhole), was scrutinized through a car stereo (thrice), a cheap boom-box with expensive headphones (twice) and a CD-ROM drive (once-and-a-half). Scientific conclusion: Blackhole are, indeed, The Shit.

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I’m not first to declare Blackhole as such. Prior to carrying out this exhaustive study, it was noted that increasing numbers of Salt Lakers were experiencing the gravitational cool-pull of this band, not in small part due to their local-scene pedigree: Dave Boogert (drums, ex-Erosion), Dave Styer (bass, The Horns), Paul Butterfield (other bass, ex-Red Bennies) and he known as Chopper (vocals and swagger, ex of every underground SLC band, ever). But, that these men all came from groups once touted as Wasatch be-all-end-alls was minor compared to the music.

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No doubt you’ve noted the instrumental configuration of Blackhole, namely the dual-bass. Many bands have tried and failed with similar setups, mostly because they aimed too funky or too heavy, forgetting that not everyone reads Bass Player and appreciates brown-sound registers and pop-and-slap acrobatics more than good tunes. Not Blackhole.

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You may already be fond of the low, sludgy and ultra-heavy sounds of The Melvins or Enemymine. That’s a good place to start with Blackhole, but it only gets you so far. To really map their musical genome, you need at least a rudimentary concept of the Dischord and Tolotta Records rosters (particularly Fugazi and Spirit Caravan) as well as that of Amphetamine Reptile (Helios Creed) and, to lesser degrees, The Jesus Lizard, Soundgarden and even Kiss’ Destroyer. Blackhole is low and sludgy, but keenly melodic and intense'hence, the repeated listens.

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When Blackhole rev up on the album opener “Rico Amor,” Boogert’s tribal pounding and Butterfield’s fuzzy, pumping bass line is an immediate hook, engaging and bracing you as Styer’s austerely melodic line and Chopper’s distinctive howl (“Reee-kooh/ Am-orrr!”) enter. Next, there’s the two-minute “The Thief,” which contrarily lumbers and races as Chop rants and raves about angels and thieves, perhaps in non-devotional reference to the Rapture (the Xtian fable, not the band). The stomping “Praise From Caesar” is the grungiest entry, with Chopper as the nicotine-damaged offspring of Chris Cornell and King Buzzo.

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The record is an epic, space-truckin’ ride as heavy as it is tuneful. You get to know the ebb-and-flow of the record, how it rushes at and away from you, causing you to alternately hold up your hands to fend it off, then beckon it hither. All this with just those two bass guitars, a drum kit and a bellowing biped with mutton chops.

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OK, not entirely true: The pulsing “No Entiendo” features a frantic guitar solo courtesy co-producer Eli Morrison (The Wolfs) as well as minimal but effective bursts of trumpet from Dave Chisholm (The Brobecks). Mike Sasich (Silent Sevens, Thunderfist) plays sky-is-falling electric piano on “Catch Phrase of the Latter Days” and moaning lap steel on “Confusing Bruises.” Steven Chai contributes ominous free-jazzy sax to the frenetically-pumping “Livin’ Life.”

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When the ride culminates in the 1-2-3 roundhouse combo of “Protocol” (“Villages burn as freedom rings!”), “Rosa” (a love song for the abducted) and “Wherever I Am Not” (resignation, rumination and regret in the key of puke), it’s with a sense of coming off a scary, exhilarating amusement-park ride. You’ll want to proclaim Blackhole as your own discovery, and as heroes.

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But don’t call them a supergroup or The Next Big SLC Thing. It’s simply Blackhole, by all accounts'including their own'the best band the four scene vets have ever been a part of. Probably because behind (or below) all this racket are four guys having a blast as they produce one.

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