Ecclectic sludge/doom/noise-rock road warriors Jucifer will be making their annual trip to Toronto on Thursday, where The Garrison should prove to be a suitable venue for their sonic attack. The interesting thing about this band is that while they’re heavier than a herd of thundering elephants in the live setting, their recorded output tends more towards poppier, grunge-rock territory–excluding their latest full-length, that is. Alas, I’ll be taking a look back at their last three albums over the next couple days in anticipation of this gig. Note to self: Earplugs are essential.
If Thine Enemy Hunger (Relapse, 2006)
After a couple years spent toiling on indie labels following the collapse of Capricorn (which issued their debut, Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip, back in ’98), If Thine Enemy Hunger brought Jucifer back from obscurity in ’06. Released on Relapse, this album allowed the band to tour Europe for the first time, while their caravan kept rolling on across the States and Canada.
The record opens with “She Tides the Deep,” which is both the longest, and arguably the heaviest song on here. A slow, pounding, repetitive doom riff is offset by the sickly-sweet singing of Amber Valentine, crooning a longing love song to a mysterious lesbian lover. This one comes across quite well in their heavily-amplified live set as well. “Centralia” continues the slow, sullen mood, a minimalistic verse on which Valentine sings softly atop the hard-hitting drums of Edgar Livengood, with some ringing distorted guitar accompaniment added in for the chorus. Even on headphones, this sounds pretty massive.
“Lucky Ones Burn” takes things in a different direction, a simplistic grunge-pop tune with a pretty catchy chorus. “Hennin Hardine,” a tune that has nothing to do with tennis, also features some sweetly crooned vocal melodies and less-complex grunge-rock riffs above a pounding backbeat, though this one does kick it up a bit for the chorus—both in the vocal and the riffage departments. “Antietam” kinda reminds me of Kittie (keeping in mind that I haven’t heard Kittie since their first album), albeit with some more interesting guitar intonations. Still, it’s largely forgettable. With 15 tracks on here, there’s bound to be a few worth skipping…
The next handful of songs are all in the 2-3 minute range, short but sweet. “My Benefactor” is a little like Nice Cat, sickly-sweet vocals over a crunchy backbeat. “Four Suns” brings us back a bit towards the slowed-down sludge, this one packing more of a punch despite the lazy, laidback Valentine vocal. “Pontius of Palia” is a little faster, again with that jagged grungy sound that’s not entirely unappealing. An echo effect on the vocals of “Backslider” distinguishes it from its predecessors; the down-tuned grunge riffing does not, though I kinda dig the slightly psychedelic chorus. “Luchamos” is sung (or rather whispered) in Spanish, with a beat that’s almost danceable and a heavy grunge chorus, just to mix it up a bit, I guess.
“Ludlow” brings back the heaviness at a shade over four minutes long. Like second song “Centralia,” this one relies on a drum-and-bass-backed verse (they may not have any bass on stage, but Livengood often plays it on record), which eventually gives way to a rolling, crashing wave of fuzz and distortion. But “The Plastic Museum” brings in some jangly guitars and warm, repetitive vocals—though you could sorta see this one becoming a blackened metal number when played live. “In a Family Way” adopts the same vocal screed, albeit with a slightly heavier backbeat. Kinda sounds like The Cranberries or something.
“Medicated” is more of a laid-back drug song, the lighter, relaxing approach allowing the lyrics to shine. Not sure if I even have a frame of reference for this one, but alas, Dopesmoker it is not. “Led” ends things on a slow-rolling note, more along the lines of its predecessor than the album’s heavy beginnings. Though it starts off with a bang, If Thine Enemy Hunger really ends with a whimper.