Floodgate - PENALTY

I'm a huge proponent of the New Orleans scene.  Not that I'm a music expert or anything.  I don't have my finger on the pulse of modern day "NOLA metal," but I dig every band that crawled out of those quaggy swamps.  The 90's, in particular, saw the unswerving expulsion of one killer record after another.  I'm talking about the exploits of Crowbar, Down, Corrosion of Conformity, Acid Bath, Soilent Green, Graveyard Rodeo and others I'm forgetting.  All of these outfits share a decidedly Southern predilection for gut-level, down-tempo grooves, yet they each forged their own unique identity.  Duck!  It's a paragraph break!

Floodgate was an obscure group from this very "movement," and I don't blame you if you've never heard of them.  They stonewalled my homing device (or sonar tracking system, if you prefer) for years.  Most metalheads compare this album to Down's 1995 debut.  There are several similarities between NOLA and 1996's Penalty, I grant you.  For starters, we have a thrash icon on vocals.  Kyle Thomas of Exhorder fame handles guitar/throat duties.  However, this isn't the rancorous, carcinogenic assemblage of speedy head-stompers that fans were expecting.  Like Down, Floodgate specializes in sludge-quilted hard rock.

Sludge-quilted...if Swamp Thing were an interior decorator, he might...ugh, nevermind.  There are moments where Kyle sounds like Philip H. Anselmo.  He almost comes across as an amalgamation of the former Pantera figurehead and John Bush.  Musically, I hear a scintilla of Trouble.  Irrevocably, I keep going back to Down when I reach for gustatory parallels.  "Through My Days Into My Nights" is Penalty's answer to "Lifer."  Likewise, "Whole" brings "Jail" to mind.  I don't want to insinuate that this is a copycat record, though.  You could call them companion pieces, and I doubt that it would offend the band members.

But it doesn't really matter.  The question is, does Penalty deliver the goods?  "Yes," I said.  The riffs are heavy, the hooks are catchy and on the whole, this set has serious replay value.  I bought it on the same day as Suffocation's Pinnacle of Bedlam (a paltry disappointment, I'm afraid), and this is the CD that has hogged my stereo.  I'm constantly craving rock with meat on its bones.  I can't turn to the radio, but Floodgate fits the bill.  It's not groundbreaking.  If I'm being honest, a couple of tracks rub me the wrong way.  "Feel You Burn" and "Black With Sin" flitter too close to stoner territory for my liking, but hey, I'll live.  If you fancy this style as much as I do, give Penalty a whirl.  It's better than whatever you listen to, loser.

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