Underground Sounds: Substratum – Permission to Rock

Label: Swords & Chains Records
Band: Substratum
Origin: United States

Nothing beats a good slice of old-fashioned heavy metal and that is precisely what Seattle heroes Substratum deliver on their album ‘Permission To Rock’. It’s denim and leather, with a good nod to the crossover skate culture in a sound that is clear-cut, crisp and energetic.

After their sci-fi-vibey ‘Stratosphere’, this album embraces the cheese fully. Four faces on the cover, a big logo and a dominating posture over a city in smoke. Bursting planets encircle the faces of the band members in this still-futuristic landscape. It’s… interesting? But hey, we all love that He-Man-quality of heavy metal, so let’s dig in!
‘Rough Rider’ is exactly what you expect. Rigid, tight riffs and biting vocals, that are surprisingly low in the mix, sometimes even hard to hear. Not really a downer, because vocalist Amy Lee Carlson has a venomous snarl and brings that narrative in harmony with the music. The music is diverse and never takes you on a path or repetition, with their reach-for-the-sky attitude. Tracks like ‘To Nothing, To None’, put them in line with bands like Accept and maybe even a bit of Iron Maiden here and there.
The anthemic quality of their sound is also undeniable, with a tune like ‘Exxtremer (Permission to Rock)’, they step into the domain of Twisted Sister and their ilk. Tasty guitar licks and mellow passages that just make you feel so good. Man, I want to go buy a bandana and rip the sleeves of my jeans jacket. At least, if I get permission to rock! Interestingly, the latter songs on the album take on a bit more of an epic edge. After the brief intermezzo ‘Triangulum’, we get the galloping might of ‘Up on Wheels’, which is a fist-pumping closer to this record.
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