The Shrine - Primitive Blast Review

The Shrine - Primitive Blast
The Shrine - Primitive Blast. Tee Pee Records

Primitive Blast is the debut full-length from riotous trio The Shrine. The band call Venice, Los Angeles home, but forget any artsy or ironic sashays down Venice's famed promenade for guitarist and vocalist Josh Landau, bassist Courtland Murphy, and drummer Jeff Murray. The Shrine haunt the broken glass and dirty needle littered back alleys of that beachfront district. Fuelled by nasty hallucinogens, ditch weed and cheap beer, the band combine the hook-laden appeal of ‘70s hard and garage rock with stoner metal and gritty ‘80s hardcore.

Over the past four years The Shrine have shared stages with the likes of Kyuss Lives!, Pentagram, Fu Manchu, and Sword, which is appropriate given the band’s heady rock vibe. However, this also gives a somewhat distorted impression of the The Shrine’s arsenal, because although they share an affinity with those bands, they’re really more akin to a crossover act. 

To remedy this, The Shrine have dubbed their own sound "psychedelic violence"—which is entirely accurate. The psychedelic component turns up in their cosmic, jam-band accent, although their Hawkwind-like propulsion is rudely stripped of hippie niceties and handed a rusty switchblade instead. The band also records on reel-to-reel tape using vintage gear and colossal Marshall stacks, which makes them all the more pungently retro.

The violence, well… that's everywhere. Primitive Blast is indebted to the unkempt and ill-tempered crash and burn of hardcore, thrash and lo-fi garage rock.

The wrath of Animosity-era Corrosion of Conformity is here, as is the squalid impetus of early Motörhead. However, the most cantankerous thread comes in the form of the band's Black Flag-esque pummel—a link already acknowledged by the fact that Black Flag and SST Records founder Chuck Dukowski produced The Shrine’s self-titled 7" debut.

Primitive Blast is 32 minutes of debauched and scorching rock. There are plenty of metal, punk and spacey vibes to groove along with and whip your head about to, and the album’s recalcitrant spirit really discourages in-depth analysis. Picking apart the doom-laden "Zipper Tripper", the uproarious surge of "Whistlings of Death" or the interstellar blues-soaked final track, "Deep River (Livin' to Die)", leads to the same conclusion every time. This is kick-ass, truculent rock and roll, pure and simple.

"Freak Fighter," "Run the Night" and "Wasted Prayer" showcase Landau's barking vocals perfectly, his buzzing riffs awash with a bruising, mega-amplified punch. As with any power trio, Murphy and Murray's supporting roles are crucial in adding flesh to the songs. Primitive Blast’s matter-of-fact production allows for every bass rumble and every percussive blast to be felt like a solid kick to the chest. Or, more pertinently to The Shrine, like skating full-tilt into the back of a stationary truck.

No one’s going to accuse The Shrine of indulging in sophisticated pursuits, not that they were ever on the band's agenda. However, it's their straightforwardness and rip-roaring finesse that ensure Primitive Blast is a blazingly good time from start to finish.

The album’s volatility, Landau's charisma and the band's ability to kick out the ceaselessly inviting jams make for a half hour of quintessential metallic skate punk channeling hazy hesher glories. Primitive Blast is well worth a visit, whatever your state of mind.

(Released July 17, 2012, on Tee Pee Records)