A couple of years ago the roots, rock and folk realm was filled with release after release of “holy shit this is the best thing I have heard” type records being sprung forth into the world, and our ears. Jason Isbell’s Southeastern started a pattern in which you could write introspective, deep and poignant songs but still play rock n’ roll guitar and have the words hit home just as deeply as if there was a sorrowful, lonely acoustic slowly picked under the lyrics. It’s been a while since another one of these records has come along. I have been craving another record like that, with soaring riffs but writing that cuts deep below them. 2016 was dotted with a handful of great releases that stuck with me (and still d0) but the barrage of masterful record after masterful record seemingly dwindled a bit. Enter Ron Gallo.
Gallo’s Heavy Meta was teased to us in early last year’s RG3 EP (now no longer on the artist’s Bandcamp page) in which listeners got just a taste of what the full length album (released by New West) would hold. And what it holds hits hard and fast…sonically and on a far more human level.
The record as a whole is rock-lick-heavy and overdriven. Gallo’s voice almost on the brink of feeding back at times it seems, further adding to the tension the songwriter builds into his arrangements. The guitar playing is loose, free and an almost “fuck you” attitude that screams “I am going to play this as loud as I can and whatever I want to” injects itself into the cascading notes. You cannot deny that there is feeling here. Anger, despair, a sickening, albeit realistic, view of society…but some sense of hope that the words of a song can shed a light on those things. Maybe? The guitars shimmer as they ring out and fall into a pit of distortion, the drums throb heavily and the bass follows suit. The record is, indeed, heavy in more ways than one.I have been seeking something like this. There is an undeniable groove to the musicality contained within Meta. Track like “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” have an anthem like quality that even the most conservative listener would have a hard time not head-banging along to and the quick-fire frenetic energy of the 1 minute and 23 second romper “Please Yourself” is punk as shit.
Don’t want to be like the asphalt on the street
Spend my whole life letting everybody walk all over me
All the pressure and the cracks
Now they’re all trying to blame it all on me
This is an album that needs (and deserves) a listen or two. The messages can get lost in the noise and Gallo’s occasionally sarcastic and subtle societal musings and observations could be buried by the noise at times or your uncontrollable urge to shake and shimmy. But maybe that’s the point. There is a sense of poking fun at the general ludicrosity that flows through the veins of society and for those who can catch on to it, its a much needed reprieve from taking social media “likes” and selfie photos to heart. As Gallo, drummer Dylan Sevey and bassist Joe Bisirri played the aforementioned quick-fire romper in a downtown Nashville intersection proclaiming “trying to please everybody” as a handful of youngsters look up from their phones in the typical ‘in hand while walking position’ to get a good spot in the middle of street to film and (hopefully) get a few extra instagram likes or a new FB selfie. Ron’s gesturing at the absurdity of how we have developed as a human race only further proving itself.
Heavy Meta is an important record, so put your fucking iPhone down for a minute, close your eyes and listen friends. Listen hard and then listen again.