Album Review – Acoustic Guillotine: Self-Titled

Acoustic Guillotine Self-Titled

Billy Mac and Pete R are veteran Iowa City musicians, going back to the 1980s punk/hardcore heyday. Though this self-titled album is more metal than anything else, I have to plead ignorance as to which metal sub-genre Acoustic Guillotine pledges their allegiance to. Their bass-and-guitar-duo sound lacks metal’s trademark guitar heroics, but they’re too energetic and obtuse to be stoner rock. Acoustic Guillotine is a genre all their own. In that, they’re a paragon of the Iowa City rock scene, a no-man’s-land between hippie, headbanger and punk culture.

Their song titles sound Zappa-esque–“Rendered Hogfat Supersauce,” “Asbestos Burrito,” “Renaissance Dirtbag”–and also a bit Zappa-esque are their occasional bursts of atonality and mixed-meter trickery. Those attributes aren’t unknown in metal, but Acoustic Guillotine takes a curious approach to their implementation: Pete’s drumming has the sort of detail and nuance you’d expect from a jazz drummer and he’s following Billy’s playing just as much as he sets the tempo for Billy to follow.

Billy’s bass is pushed to the foreground by the duo format, and his playing doesn’t try to fill all the holes left by the absence of other instruments. Instead, he concentrates on focused riffing punctuated with occasional double stop chords. The recording (done at Luke Tweedy’s Flat Black Studio) captures the subtle tonal changes that Billy achieves solely with his playing technique.

Billy’s growled vocals obscure most of the lyrics unless you listen very closely, but the few bits that stick out are droll, like “Lazy and stupid is no way to go through life” (from “Asbestos Burritos”), and what seems to be a curse in binary code, “One Zero One Zero Zero Zero One Zero” (from “Heavy Bolts Of Electric Death”).

Acoustic Guillotine plows its own crooked musical row on this release and I highly recommend giving it a chance. Turn it up and piss off your neighbors.