The Lineup


Wilmington, N.C.


It’s tempting but not altogether accurate to label Blood Drive, the stout and striding new effort from sludgy Wilmington outfit ASG, as an abrupt shift in the band’s identity. Setting aside the sometimes stark differences from the band’s previous material, the new LP, the group’s fourth, arrives five full years after its last full-length. A split with Black Tusk—a Savannah trio whose fusion of humid heft and punk momentum indicates ASG’s previous work—helped bridge the gap in 2009. Other than that, the band had been mostly silent for half a decade.

The new release, out in May via metal stalwart Relapse Records, is far different—and far better—than the four beer-and-sweat-soaked LPs the band produced between 2002 and 2007. But as improved as the already fun foursome is on Blood Drive, the record benefits from strengths that were already apparent.

ASG’s previous efforts concerned energetic rumbling more than precise pummeling, with rough riffs that chugged and slashed locking into tight grooves. It was often quite thrilling, but it could become a bit of a bog, too, with restrictive patterns holding the band back from its full potential. The quartet sidesteps those issues on Blood Drive, expanding its palette to include more of the manifold shades reductively lumped into “Southern metal.”

Opening salvo “Avalanche” harnesses the molten density preferred by Savannah’s Harvey Milk and sends it soaring with kinetic riffs and hooks that match Torche in energy and Baroness in grandiosity. The singing of Jason Shi—now abandoning his once-clumsy mumbles for slicing, high-register and perfect belts—glides through the song’s lofty passages with unwavering confidence. “Castlestorm” displays the band’s refined riff slinging, grinding guitars that stoke the fire. Already a good band, Blood Drive suggests that ASG might just be a great one. —Jordan Lawrence