Backwoods Payback is:
Jessica Baker: Bass
Rylan Caspar: Guitar
Mike Cummings: Guitar, Vocals
W.S. Curtiss: Drums
Jay Fortin: Addition guitar on " Lord Chesterfield"
Produced, Recorded, and Mixed by: Benny Grotto @ Mad Oak Studios Allston, MA.
Mastered by: Chris Goosman Basline Audio Labs Ann Arbor, MI.
Cover & Design: Wyatt Kring
Words: M. Cummings
Music: Backwoods Payback
You'll know a Momantha when you see it maybe?
The following, taken from the official Facebook page of Backwoods Payback, tells you nearly everything you need to know about Momantha: "Influences: Whiskey, Weed, Black Sabbath. Band Interests: Drinking, Rocking, Rolling." To round things out, the band also cites Kyuss and Acid Bath, and, oooh boy, do they wear those inspirations on their flannelled sleeves. Momantha is a fuzzy, driving, droning cocktail of melodic hard rock-tinged metal swirling around mostly soulful vocals that occasionally devolve into throat-shredding howls.
Approximately one metric digital shit-ton of stuff chasing after this very same vibe shows up in my e-box monthly at this point, yet-as with Danava's Hemisphere of Shadows last year- there is something about the way Backwoods Payback strives to mix things up within subgenre parameters that manages to boost the band out of the ceaseless current that sweeps away most of its contemporaries.
Maybe it's the swagger. Or the meat-and-potatoes, humble yeoman approach of the players' own musical prowess. Or the fact that Backwoods Payback have the good sense to rein in even great riffs when it serves the flow of the song, which, in turn, keep us guessing a little bit more than usual. Who knows? At the end of the day, this is what is- see again the aformentioned Influences, Band Interests- but fans of whiskey, weed, and Black Sabbath jonesing for some new tunage to spin while they get their sweat leaf on could do much worse, and in all probability, outside of the legends and masters, not a whole lot better.
- Shawn Macomber
I'm guessing that you've already heard of this one and you might even own it, but here's a reminder in case you don't. It's another fantastic rock album from Small Stone Records that I've been listening to for months. It's Momantha, by Pennsylvania's Backwoods Payback.
A stoner rock band with doom influences. Heavy-metal. I don't care what you call 'em and they probably don't either. Backwoods Payback are "3 dudes, 1 gal, rocking harder than you." I love the band's confidence and their music even more. Wicked fuzzy guitars and extremely soulful vocals; stout, robust rhythms. These are definitely my kinda tunes, influenced by "whiskey, weed and Black Sabbath." You bet your ass.
I don't know exactly why, but this music reminds me of my old Kentucky home in the Appalachian Mountains. The dusty gravel roads winding through the hollows. Dirty, coal-stained jeans and a t-shirt. One thing's for sure, Momantha is gritty, honest, blue-collar fuzz-rock, and it's a perfect escape after a hard day's work. I've been busting my ass lately so I've been listening to it a lot.
"You Know How This Works" begins with a single lingering, fuzz-filled chord and that's all it takes to know I'm gonna love the guitar sound from Backwoods Payback. When the rest of the band joins in, I'm having no problems forgetting what a bad day I had on the job. Oh, this is definitely the shit, people. "Flight Pony" starts with a quick cymbal burst and an up-tempo beat before settling into a rockin', fuzz-filled groove.
To me, Momantha seems to get even better as it goes along. I think many rock albums can tend to get a little stale in the middle but not this one. "Lord Chesterfield" is the fifth song out of 10 and it's one of my favorites, with plenty of head-bobbing, bluesy guitars. "Parting Words" reminds me of Sabbath the most, probably because of it's massive doom metal sound. And the bass...damn. I think "Velcro" is one tremendous, sluggish fuzz-fest, too, and has some of the best vocals of any song.
"Timegrinder" doesn't waste any time at all, fiercely determined to rock and roll your sorry ass at the beginning and doom it near the end. "Ballad Of A Broken Horse" is a superb finale to Momantha and leaves me caked with fuzz. Now I need a shower.
I told Racer a while back that I was pretty sure I would like anything from Small Stone Records. I've been right on the money so far because Momantha is one more stupendous rock release worth buying.
Pennsylvania quartet Backwoods Payback pours out a delectable stoner rock cocktail on their 10-track affair MOMANTHA. Meshing fuzzy riffs and protracted tempos while peppering hints of southern stoner style a la Alabama Thunderpusssy (“Timegrinder”), these guys and gal maintain a slight sense of shuffle even when downshifted into full doom mode (“Velcro”), successfully keeping the mood from becoming overly oppressive. This unit also finds clever ways to place shards of grunge and alternative metal into their mix, giving tracks like the Nirvana meets Cathedral inspired “Poncho” and the COC by way of Goatsnake “Parting Words” a stronger sense of buoyancy. While Backwoods Payback does cover a lot of ground here, but they do it with little distraction, displaying the capability to dole out soaring vocals (“Lord Chesterfield”) with as much confidence as delivering the bruising riffs over pummeling rhythms combo that keep the head bobbing (“Flight Pony”).
4 out 5
This is the constant quandary of the reviewer: how to treat an album that is neither great nor terrible. Great albums, while rare, are pretty much a gimme. It's never difficult to write up a band that you love or an album that genuinely makes you feel something. On the other hand, when you really dislike something the words flow like poison from your computer keyboard (or something like that). The problem is while the album is definitely not bad, it doesn't really do much for you at all in either direction. You know that the band has probably put a lot of time and effort into the music that they're proud of, that means something to them, but that doesn't make it mean something to you. Well, for me 'Momantha' is one of those records.
I've tried again and again, but the music just doesn't grab me. This is partly attributable to the fact that there are not much good songs for my taste. Sometimes the tracks pass into nothing and don't catch on fire as for example in 'You Know How It Works' and 'Flight Pony'. Moreover, they often lack compelling ideas, although the sludge assault of 'Timegrinder' has been both sudden and unexpected. But very often 'Momantha' is just an uninspired blend of Lo-Pan, Solace and Suplecs, with which they share the same record label namely Small Stone Records. In addition, I have a problem with the vocals of guitarist Mike Cummings, although I appreciate the fact that he has a versatile vocal range.
But unfortunately I don't like the almost whiny timbre in his voice and there are too many moments when he tries too hard to be emotional. So it can happen that a good song such as 'Mr. Snowflake' turns into a worse song and I would wish he would restrain himself from exaggerating because sometimes, as is known, less is more. However, a positive feature is that Pennsylvania's BACKWOODS PAYBACK create a huge wall of fuzz that's as thick as a giant sequoia. Needless to say that the whole thing is also very heavy. The instrumentation is loud and crunchy, with fairly aggressive percussion and my thanks go out to Benny Grotto, who, once again, did a fine job with the production. All in all, 'Momantha' is not bad but nothing that stands out. For the future I hope BACKWOODS PAYBACK will write better songs with stronger riffs. And there would be no harm in thinking about the vocals.
Late review for this one! Shame on me! Don’t know how hot Pensylvania is these days but Backwoods Payback deliver a strong dose of desert rock. Member of the Small Records team (Lo Pan, Gozu, Iron Weed, Freedom Hack), if you are familiar with this label you probably know what to expect. Ultra downtuned blues, southern attitude, massive stoner riffs, powerful vocals. Think of Clutch with a more downtuned metal sound!
Don’t really know what a “Momantha” is, but my guess is that is has something to do with the multiple sides an object can have. Could be way off though… In any case, in this record the band displays tens of different approaches to doom. For example “Fight Pony” sounds like as if it was made from a grunge band forgotten in time, “Timegrinder” leans towards a more thrash/sludge side while “Mr. Snowflake” is reveals the love of the band for Sabbath. Now this can be good or bad. Personally I found this frequent shift of styles as one of the only negative point in a near perfect stoner record.
I need to stand at two points: a) this band knows how to write good songs! You will find not even one bad song in this disk. Actually, most songs are meant to be played live so you can expect an uplifting spirit from “Momantha” b) Vocals are good and at times great. Again the style of vocals is changing from song to song but the quality is maintained constantly in high levels. Sometimes Cummings reminds a bit of Danzig. Not bad ha? Bottom line: have fun with “Momantha”! Satisfaction guaranteed!
They took notice – or is that wishful thinking? When I reviewed the first cd by Backwoods Payback on this site in 2008, I thought this band based it sound very much on Danzig and Clutch, which is a strange combination. On ‘Momantha’, their new album released by the renowned Small Stone Records, the blatant imitation of these great examples has disappeared. That is a good thing. The band has obviously grown in the four years that separate their debut album and this new disk. Some things are still there, like the howls produced by singer-guitarist Mike Cummings that – it has to be said – still remind of Glenn Danzig’s singing. Other elements that remain are the low-tuned guitars and the boogie rhythms that give the songs a certain bouncing “schwung”. But this is no longer a Clutch carbon copy and that is a good thing. Backwoods Payback is itself now.
Do not expect virtuoso guitar solo’s or songs in exotic time. This band makes rather straight forward sludgy stonerrock at rather slow paces. Within these self chosen boundaries Backwoods Payback makes the best of it ‘Mr. Snowflake’ is a song built around a single, but rather catchy guitarriff that provides the basis for Mike Cummings’ depressing lyrics. ‘Lord Chesterfield’ shows that the basic sound has room for variation in speed and intensity. The song has a few quiet moments but gently builds up to a fast climax and then suddenly stops. ‘Momantha’ (possibly named after a hockey legend?) offers much of the same, without this getting boring or annoying. The negative, doomy vibe that predominates ‘Momantha’ is that strong it is noticeable when there is a lighter tune, like ‘Poncho’, a song that almost makes you want to clap your hands and sing along. It is just a one time diversion. Most of the following tracks are low-spirited and tence, but without the copycat attitude. Backwoods Payback no longer follows but chooses its own path. For that reason alone ‘Momantha is a huge improvement on the debut album, although the feeling remains that there are still better things to come, making this a stepping stone towards real greatness.
Rating: 78/100 (details)
It's easy to understand why Backwoods Payback have recently joined Small Stone Records impressive roster. Most of all, West Chester, PA-based act is a hard-rocking beast on stage. Their performances have always been visceral mostly, but not exclusively due to charismatic singing of Mike Cummings. In such cases one question arises all the time: Is the band's stage intensity going to work equally well on the record? Their 2007's self-titled debut was certainly filled with fine songwriting, yet the production proved to be rather lacking with subsequent listens. Now, when they're on the Small Stone label, which is responsible for the success of such coveted acts as Dozer, Halfway To Gone or Lo-Pan, this problem just ceased to exist.
A quick glimpse at the sun-drenched cover of mysteriously titled “Momantha” leaves no question as to what kind of music one can expect. This is a fuzzed-out stoner rock record with strong leanings towards oppressively heavy doom metal. The heavy, low-end sound revolves around Jessica Baker's pounding bass lines and V.S. Curtiss' massive drumming that are complemented by the appropriately fuzz-drenched guitar interplay between Rylan Caspar and Cummings whose throaty howls seem entirely in line with this sort of music. Owing to the immensely thick production, the album's atmosphere can be associated with an image of dense mist rising over swamps.
The album hardly reinvents the wheel when it comes to stoner/doom, yet it certainly has something refreshing going for it in terms of song craft. This might not be evident from the outset as “You Know How This Works” opens the disc with a rather straightforward slice of stoner boogie influenced by the likes of Clutch and Orange Goblin. "Momantha" gets substantially more challenging later on. In “Flight Pony” an infectiously melodic, riff-driven tune gives way to a psychedelic breakdown that builds to an ecstatic finale. “Knock Wood” is wonderfully reflective both in its post-grunge vibe and emotive lyrics. Heavy blues-inspired “Mr. Snowflake” unexpectedly ends on a somber note with the terrific closing riff.
The second half of the record holds just as many surprises. “Poncho” relies on a playful, swampy riff that makes for the catchiest song on the disc, while “Velcro” considerably slows the pace down finding solace in its chilling drone riffing. On the other hand, abrasive “Timegrinder” marks the most unexpected stylistic departure with its hardcore undertones being backed up by superb harsh vocals. Not all the cuts on “Momantha” are equally hard-hitting though. “Ballad Of A Broken Horse” is a rather disjointed closer whose great individual segments don't really amount to a cohesive song, whereas “Parting Words,” despite compelling lyrics, doesn't quite live up to its potential.
“Momantha” may not be instant or particularly cohesive, which decidedly enhances its appeal. The record certainly requires several spins to wholly sink in. However, when it does so, it proves to be an infectious album that only occasionally goes through the motions. Instead, thanks to their daring approach to heavy rock, Backwoods Payback manage to find their own niche delivering numerous amazing songs in the process.
- Greg Fisher
What the hell is a Momantha? Anyone? Well, perhaps this is an official warning that Pennsylvania's Backwoods Payback are here to pose questions, not answer them with this, their sophomore album, and their first for Detroit's Small Stone Records. Opener "You Know How This Works" (errr, no, not sure we do) starts inconclusively, ends without warning, and feels rather unfinished, while its follow-up, "Flight Pony," sounds like two songs mashed into one wacky sandwich: the bread made of whole grain Soundgarden dipped in a bucket of bayou muck; the filling taste of Clutch on a particularly heavy acid trip. Keeping faithfully to this curious amalgam, ensuing slugfests such as "Knock Wood," "Parting Words," and the mighty, molten molasses of "Velcro" proceed to leave a trail of viscous slime right down that Soundgarden/Clutch highway -- they may not vary much but they have that queer recipe down cold. Detours? There are a few, including a more energetic, though still Black Sabbath-infused "Lord Chesterfield" and, later, "Timegrinder," as well as a swamp thing/Sgt. Pepper's mutation called "Poncho," but that's about it. So what gives? Are Backwoods Payback abstruse musical yeti-savants? Or just plain stumbling around the studio totally wasted? Honestly, they may be both, but give them credit for digging their own stoner sludge trough and then laying in it. Some listeners will surely eagerly join them, as the music on this sophomore album billows out of the speakers like a dense fog, as disorienting as it is intriguing. Cough!
- Eduardo Rivadavia
Backwoods Payback is part of the post-Clutch contingent of heavy rockers. Not that the Pennsylvania quartet sounds just like Maryland’s finest, mind you. But, like Neil Fallon and the boys, BP has a shot of punk rock energy running through its 70s stoner riffs, as if the band is more used to slamdancing than head-nodding. (Unsurprising, given leader Mike Cummings’ hardcore background.) Most of Momantha choogles and burns, as Cummings howls over roiling guitar riffs and blasting rhythms – cf. Parting Words and Flight Pony. But the group also takes time for the scorched-earth sludge of Timegrinder and the surprisingly melodic anthem Poncho, just to prove it’s no one-note symphony. As with most bands of this stripe, the record sounds at times as if some power is being kept in reserve, ready to be unleashed on some unsuspecting club audience. But Momantha is still a satisfying chunk of molten rock.
- Michael Toland
For many years I thought I was the only one who remembered Kinghorse, the obnoxious band from Louisville who blended Black Flag/Misfits hardcore with Black Sabbath and The Damned during the early 1990’s. When my band had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Backwoods Payback it turned out that singer/guitarist Mike Cummings was a fan, too. The shadow of Kinghorse looms large over the new Backwoods album for me since it combines several styles of heavy music I love into one hot n nasty rip ride. There’s a strong Misfits/Samhain/Danzig influence for sure and Mike’s howling vocals bring to mind Glenn (Anzalone) Danzig as well as Sean Garrison’s powerful screaming with Kinghorse. There’s also a lot of post-My War Black Flag mixed with Sabbath spawns Trouble and Kyuss. Diversity is always a good thing as long as it’s heavy. And loud.
Momantha is a helluva album. So was their 2007 self titled debut but this new one is a major leap forward. The songwriting shows off many more layers, the musicianship is tighter and the production is much improved. The guitars of Mike Cummings and Rylan Caspar are heavy and crunchy but never get mushy sounding. Jessica Baker’s probably got the 10-and-a-half in this band based on her ballsy bass tone and W.S. Curtiss murders his drums to form a very tight and in the pocket rhythm section.
Opening song “You Know How This Works” begins with the sound of a guitar throwing up, then the drums come in and an almost happy sounding riff starts up. The mood changes once the vocals start “I’ve got no one on my side, what the fuck else is new?” The negative vibes continue with “Flight Pony” an excellent “Hole In The Sky” style stomper. “Knock Wood” and “Mr. Snowflake” are mid-tempo ragers with tortured vocals and some nice melodic lead guitar fills.
The middle of the album has a bunch of mid-tempo heavy rockers like “Parting Words,” “Lord Chesterfield” and “Velcro” that maintain their groove from start to finish but will keep you amped up behind the steering wheel without getting a speeding ticket. “Velcro” is the longest cut on the album (just under 6 minutes) and contains positive thoughts like “if I had a gun I’d clean it everyday to keep it in its finest working shape.” Things speed up and get really pissed off on “Timegrinder.” This one really reminds me of Kinghorse at their most furious with an early C.O.C. intervention. Album closer “Ballad Of A Broken Horse” is kind of a summary of the entire album. Parts are fast, parts are slow, there’s some Sabbath (maybe even from Born Again!) and the thing flat out rocks.
Backwoods Payback has come up with a real winner with Momantha, one of the better heavy music releases so far this year. As good as the album is I’m sure all of the songs will be even better live. If you’ve never seen Backwoods Payback before you’re in for a real treat. They will play at just about any dump that will have them and they always go insane even if there’s only one person in the crowd. As a matter of fact, I think they go even more insane when there are fewer people. They’re also some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet. Whether you’re a new friend or old they will always offer to take you out to their van and share their Wild Turkey with you. I’ve had the hangovers to prove it. The album is currently available on itunes and physical CD’s will be available shortly. Don’t snooze on this one, mutha!
Backwoods Payback! The name conjures images of some kind of Deliverance style, hillbilly redneck revenge killing…all plaid shirts, mountains of empty beer cans, fulsome beards and hefty bellies with shotguns across their laps!!! In truth…well, musically this doesn’t sound that far from the truth to be honest. This is an album of fat, ballsy southern tinged stoner styled rock, but to dismiss it as such would kind of do this album something of a disservice.
Opening with “You Know How This Works”, a jaunty, bouncing little riff soon gives way to some dense, Orange Goblin-esque stoner boogie topped off with the impassioned, clean yet edgy vocals of Mike Cummings. “Flight Pony” is up next and displays BP’s knack for writing a catchy riff with Cumming’s counterpoint vocals hitting the listener with a keen melodic edge that is disarmingly memorable. The semi psychedelic, Beatles infused breakdown in the middle of the song also shows that these guys are far from being a stonerized one trick pony.
“Knock Wood” also adds more diversity to the Payback arsenal. A heavy yet sombre piece this straddles a fine line between some of Soundgarden’s epic moments and Life Of Agony’s more subdued efforts. Cumming’s vocals throughout the album do echo some of Keith Caputo’s tortured melodic style with Benny Grotto’s sparse production allowing the vocals full weight to divulge their inner demons. Things take a small dip on “Mr Snowflake”, a fine tune but it’s leanings towards doom don’t hit the same heights as the opening trio of tunes. That said, the riffs are fat and the vocals remain a strong suit in the BP deck of cards.
The bar raises notch for “Lord Chesterfield” which packs a lot of bang for your buck in its 4 plus minutes veering from a tension building verse into a full on, powerhouse rock out on the choruses with yet another naggingly memorable melody riding on top. Five tracks in and we possibly have the album winner right here!!! After such a strong tune the BP guys and gal drop the ball slightly on “Parting Words”. It’s efforts at becoming an epic doom infused behemoth fall slightly short as the listener is left with an all too real sense of familiarity as a series of generic riffs get lost in a musical black hole that Cumming’s voice isn’t quite able to pull them out of.
Redemption is on hand, however, with “Poncho”. A deceptive little tune that rides on a harmonically twisted riff and Cumming’s restrained yet catchy vocal. It may appear strange to mention the Beatles twice in a review of this nature but there is something that can’t quite be pinpointed here that owes a debt to that band’s later period. Maybe if they had grown up in the backwoods of the States, drinking beer and listening to Blue Cheer instead of Liverpool, listening to skiffle, this may be what they would have sounded like.
As quickly as the band give with one hand they take away with the other. “Velcro” is an attempt at a cross between doom metal and Pink Floyd that doesn’t quite work. Musically this just feels lazy and unfocussed playing out for much of its nearly 6 minutes on two chords. The vocals do offer some respite as Cummings brings things right down to a hazy breathiness that does give some life to the song but overall it would appear that the band don’t perform at their best on the slower, darker numbers. Fortunately “Timegrinder” is a grinding metal monster of a tune that hits hard from the off with some gut bursting vocals that stray into Eyehategod territory. It’s a curve ball for sure but not unwelcome. When BP do pull things down into a crawling mire it shows they can do doom effectively and with real power.
One track left to go and once again Backwoods Payback pull out all their tricks as the song lurches from pounding southern fried doom to all out foot down metal to epic grunge and back to rolling southern grime. It’s a brave effort but again, doesn’t quite hit the mark…not terrible but certainly not up to some of the higher standards shown elsewhere. I’m also left with a sense that the recording of this track may have been as hurried as its inception as the vocals don’t seem to show the same level of care as previous songs and one of the guitars does sound a pubic hair out of tune which jars somewhat.
That Backwoods Payback fit right in to the Small Stone roster is without doubt, their brand of far reaching doomed out southern stoner sits at the heart of much of the label’s previous work. Is it a flagship album for the label, I don’t think so. It’s certainly a fine album and worthy of many repeated listens but when placed toe to toe with the likes of Roadsaw and the new Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned effort it may find itself falling behind. I’m sure the Small Stone faithful will embrace this album…and the next one will deal the killer blow as the band definitely have it in their back pockets!!!
- Ollie Stygall
It was kind of a surprise when Small Stone signed West Chester, Pennsylvania, riff mongers Backwoods Payback. Not that the band is undeserving. In the live arena, they stand up to anyone you want to put them against (including, regularly, formidable label mates Lo-Pan), but their recorded output struck me as rawer than most of what the Detroit label gets behind these days, grittier and with more dirt under its fingernails. Listening to the finished product of Backwoods Payback’s Small Stone debut full-length, Momantha, it’s easy to see that same roughness was the appeal all along.
The four-piece have a sound that’s familiar enough to stoner rockers, but not based solely on fuzz-drenched guitar or Kyuss-style desert speeding. There’s something staid about Momantha; it’s like sludge if sludge went to therapy and started the long process of making peace with itself. There are probably a host of bands one could cite as influences or from whom elements are taken and made part of Backwoods Payback’s style, but the resulting brew is much harder to pin down. Captured at Small Stone’s go-to studio – Mad Oak in Allston, Massachusetts – by the label’s go-to engineer – Mr. Benny Grotto – the live edge that made the prior Use Magic to Kill Death EP and self-titled long-player sound so exciting is all the more vivid.
Potentially named after a hockey player (that being Moe Mantha, who did time playing for Pennsylvania teams in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Hershey), Backwoods Payback’s latest balances catchy songs with a driving edge. Momantha takes some time to settle in, but after a few listens, proves indispensable. Opener “You Know How This Works” proves aptly-named, with wavy guitars from Mike Cummings and Rylan Caspar backed by the hard-hit tom work of Steve Curtiss. Soon enough, bassist Jessica Baker also follows the bouncing riff and the album essentially gets its intro the same way the song does. Cummings, as the vocalist, has an approach that has almost no choice but to go all-out as often as humanly possible. It’s melodic, clean for most of the record (the screams on the later “Timegrinder” being an exception), and carries an undercurrent of drunkard’s woes that adds a bluesy feel to the rhythmic delivery of the lyrics.
So if “You Know How This Works” comes from the stomach, it’s even better to launch Momantha, which sets a quick momentum up front and gradually expands on it as the songs progress one to the next. “Flight Pony” keeps some C.O.C. feel in its riff, but is catchy enough to stand on its own, and “Knock Wood” is among Backwoods Payback’s strongest inclusions, with a more open chorus riff and classic bridge that is unapologetic both in its straightforwardness and its low end chug from Baker. The rhythm section first reveals itself as the asset it is in that bridge of “Knock Wood,” with Baker and Curtiss locked with the guitars in a churning progression that then changes pace on a dime back to the chorus to close out the song. It’s one of several really strong changes Backwoods Payback make on Momantha that’s probably too subtle to catch the first time through, but well worth appreciating once picked up on.
After a strong opening trio, “Mr. Snowflake” cuts into a verse groove that would do Earthride proud (one can almost see Dave Sherman putting his arms up on imaginary handlebars to ride that riff), with Cummings adding his madman’s shout to the song’s easy flow. By now it’s apparent that Backwoods Payback have little to no interest in fucking around, and by that I mean that Momantha’s course is pretty easy to plot, but the album does offer a few surprises, among them the shift in the balance of the mix for the opening of “Lord Chesterfield.” The track – which might be a reference to one of rightly-heralded PA brewers Yuengling’s specialty beers – is darker and, like its predecessors, able to shift pace deftly, but Cummings’ vocals sit further back initially and the feel overall is much darker, with Baker more present in the mix. Caspar and Cummings up the level of intricacy in the guitar interplay, but still leave room for riffing out amid the killer solo that leads into the start of Momantha’s second half with “Parting Words.”
With Baker introducing the nodding riff that makes up the bulk of “Parting Words,” the song proves more than worthy of the Small Stone lineage. You could call it undulating, tidal, whatever. It moves out and then it moves back, and in this age where no one wants to call it stoner rock anymore, “Parting Words” unabashedly is. Caspar and Cummings cut out (though make sporadic noise) about halfway through and let Baker and Curtiss lead the bridge, only returning when the far-off-the-mic vocals kick in, and if the track sets the tone for anything in Momantha’s back half, it’s the more vibe of the material. Where “Lord Chesterfield” was the only song that reached over four minutes among the first five tracks, “Timegrinder” is the only song that doesn’t among the second, and though “Poncho” might not seem like any great leap stylistically from “Flight Pony,” Cummings ties the vocal melody closer to the guitar, and the stops that act as transitions feel like a purposeful step away from some of the more seamless movement earlier in the record.
“Poncho” maintains the structural simplicity of Momantha, whatever other shifts it might make, and Backwoods Payback work well within the verse/chorus/verse modus, so I’m not about to critique, but the slower, more doomed feel of “Velcro” – Momantha’s longest cut at 5:54 – is welcome. Cummings affects an early Life of Agony feel (that band’s frontman, Keith Caputo, blurbed Cummings’ Confessions of a Lackluster Performer book of poetry, so that might play into where my comparison is coming from) in the vocals, and where much of the album has been cutting through the atmosphere to give as direct a delivery as possible, “Velcro” shifts into “oohs” and “aahs,” steady cymbal crashes from Curtiss and a hypnotically slow stomp that only gets slower as it goes on.
That’s a more than decent setup for “Timegrinder,” on which Backwoods Payback – if the therapy analogy from the second paragraph of this review is to be continued – show they still have some work ahead of them before being deemed fit for society. The slowness, at first contradicted by an opening verse, carries over from “Velcro,” and Cummings lets loose a few satisfyingly throat-ripping screams. They’re layered in amid a punk rock feel (there is some growling too), but about a minute in, the pace cuts to genuine plod for about the next two minutes of the song until finally returning to the uptempo motion of the track’s beginning. Frankly, it rules, and though that last return maybe doesn’t hit with as much ceremony as it could, the last 20 seconds of the track nonetheless provide ample payoff to not only the song, but Momantha as a whole. The short version is it rules.
And in so doing, leaves closer “Ballad of a Broken Horse” in the position of an afterthought as Momantha’s finale. It’s easy to see the closing credits roll by as the guitar lead brings the song to its end, and when it’s over, Backwoods Payback end cold on a bump and that’s it, you got what you came for, thanks a ton, see you next time. The no-frills, no-bullshit ethic is the perfect way for the band to go out, since it’s more or less what the entirely of Momantha is composed of. Cummings, Caspar, Baker and Curtiss aren’t so much reshaping their genre as carving out their unique space within it, but no question that Momantha satisfies and that its unsmoothed edges are a major reason why. One gets the sense listening that Backwoods Payback’s best work is yet ahead of them, but that’s part of the appeal too.
- H.P. Taskmaster
If there’s any immediate difference to be noted between Backwoods Payback’s 2007 self-titled debut and their 2011 Small Stone debut, Momantha, it’s the production (cheers, Mr. Grotto). That 2007 album was an ugly affair, a quagmire of lumbering stoner rock for hairy-backed troglodytes with revenge-ridden manifestos in one hand and a rusty hatchet in the other. Of course, that’s what made it so great; there’s never been any doubt about who Backwoods Payback is or what they sound like — kind of like Kyuss, kind of like The Obsessed, kind of like Devil to Pay, kind of like Acid King, and kind of like Scissorfight, but most definitely a lot like a boulder being dropped into a puddle of mud. Momantha, however, adds melody into the mix, and flexes a bit more muscle as well, but before you think that means the maniacs are city-bound to chuck curses and get library cards, be assured that this album is drenched in BP’s groggy-riffed pestilence. In fact, the album’s first half, from “You Know How This Works” to “Parting Words,” is a beast and is probably as road-ready and raunchy as BP will ever play it, but the second-half variety courtesy of the Urge Overkill alt-vibe of “Poncho,” the sludgy doom of “Velcro,” and the hardcore-tinged animosity of “Timegrinder,” will keep you on your toes, guessing when, where, and under what modus operandi the band will strike next. BP aren’t reinventing the kill here, but I just can’t seem to definitively peg ‘em, which is an awfully high compliment to give. But there is something familiar here, isn’t there? Sometimes I think it’s that vocalist/guitarist Mike Cummings’ throaty howl reminds me of Pete Stahl — and, to that end, that BP remind me in some way of a woollier Wool — and sometimes I think that they’re out there all alone in the Pennsylvania thick, just them and the shallow graves they’ve dug.
- Jeff Warren
Fresh out of Small Stone Records’ favorite house of recording, Mad Oak Studios, comes West Chester, Pennsylvania’s own Backwoods Payback’s latest record, Momantha. This one is for fans of gritty wailing vocals and doomed out stoner riffs. Momantha is Backwoods Payback’s debut record on Small Stone Records and it lives up to the credentials, which is to say it certainly rocks hard.
The Good, The Bad, and The Doomy…
Let’s start with what doesn’t really do it for me. I don’t think that the record is very cohesive. It is great that they break up the sonic landscape, but there a few things that they do really well and I feel that they should have stuck to those guns until they had a better grasp of the record they were making at the time. I wouldn’t say they are tunesmiths, but I will say that they play the shit out of their music, which is the most important thing. The lead track “You Know How This Works” doesn’t really set the tone of the record very well, as I believe the first track should. The song “Poncho” sounds like a different band and a different album. I must say, however, it is really nice to hear people trying to push stoner rock’s cliche’s out of the way, successfully or not. There is a reason these guys , and gal, are on Small Stone.
I love the tunes “Knock Wood” and “Mr. Snowflake” for their early Soundgarden like ferocity and full throttle vocals that while screamed, still stay musical. Mike Cummings voice, while more flexible than most fellow stoner rock vocalists, is best suited for this kind of material. I give him all sorts of props for trying to do more than just scream into a microphone, although he is certainly very good at that too. While there is definetly a lot of typical, rehashed stoner riffs throughout the record, BWP convincly wrangles their axes and get down to the business of laying down some serious sonic destruction. It is obvious that they have honed their craft through countless tour dates and miles logged in the van.
BWP get’s their muffa feckin DOOM jam on with the track “Velcro”, which is a nice break in the album to smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, however, they absolutely destroy the trance with the next track “Timegrinder”. It will will bring you back to reality quickly if you don’y get sucked down to the gates of Hell in the process. While this goes back to my original criticism of not being cohesive, BWP certainly lays down the doomy metal with as much hardcore ferocity as any band touring today.
Momantha is definetly worth multiple listens, as it will grow on you if you aren’t a fan right at first. It certainly did for me. If you are into familiar, big, fuzzy, stoner riffs and love to hear recordings that have been made really well, give Momantha a shot. BWP are road warriors and I’m sure that if you catch them live, you will be sent scrambling toward the merch table after their set to snatch up what you can to listen to and represent these talented doomsters.
- Ian Gerber
Momantha is a heavy riffing beast of a record from Small Stone Records band Backwoods Payback, who came to the Royal Oak label via West Chester, Pennsylvania. Like the ugly offspring of Sabbath, Down and pretty much every other stoner band, this record sounds exactly as you would expect it to.
- Brett Callwood