From the Vaults: Pox Americana

As I finish writing the review for a new book, here’s a look back at an awesome album from independent artist, “Jim Strange”. His blend of post-punk, americana, and heavy music is one hell of a ride! Here’s Jime Strange with The Proud and the Damned, with their latest album “Pox Americana”.
Jim Strange
“A nihilist descendant of Johnny Cash and Nick Cave. Portland, OR resident Jim Strange is not afraid to write about the darker side of life. After years of playing in metal bands that went nowhere, in 2008 Jim decided to take the bull by the horns and start his own project. His new band The Proud and the Damned would be based around American Roots music but with the bombast of heavy metal and echoing atmosphere and chilling vocals of gothic rock. Guitarist Kyle Faircloth joined soon after and brought a flashy lead guitar element to the sound.”

– From the band’s Bio.

Howdy, tumblrland! Doc. Necrotic, here; returning to my endless search for music, both known and not so known. This time, I venture into the work of “Jim Strange” and his band “The Proud and the Damned.” His latest album, “Pox America” is a hard and heavy ride through roadside America; and we took a wrong turn straight on leading into the pits of Hell themselves. And ya know what? The result is… groovy.

For ages, the glory of country and western has long since faded since the 1970s thanks to Nashville pop. The onslaught of bubblegum with a bit of twang has long since saturated and corrupted the market. However, thanks to the growing indie movement, artists from all over have taken the classic country sound and evolved it to a slightly gritter direction similar to the Outlaw movement of the ’70s and ’80s. Thanks to artists like Hank III and the like, this style of music is on the rise… from the grave! Like psychobilly rockers “Ghoultown”, they mix the macabre with a classic sense of “Americana.” Think wide open prairies, nostalgia for American history, and bits of culture originating from the United States. This of course blended with the brooding, gothic-tinged, and sometimes apocalyptic juxtaposition created by the band.

The Proud and the Damned was forged after the leader himself, “Jim Strange” from the abyssal depths of a land known as “Portland.” His interest in old America, the bleak and twisted, and all music hard and heavy collided into the eternally running steam train of doom we know today. Our result is the insane and rampaging mixture of doom metal, roots rock, alt-country, and a bit of post-punk sensibility for good measure. The resulting “Gothic-Americana” sound is a unique ride through American tradition turned delightfully mad.

Jim Strange’s third album, “Pox Americana”, is no exception. The title already describes what you can expect; it’s a look into American cultural roots through a gritty and morbid lens. Plus, the way it rolls of the tongue brings to mind Gothic horror/dark ambient group, “Nox Arcana.” Who knows if this is intentional, but an awesome connection perhaps?

We start the album off with, “Unless (ft. St. Äma)” a southern-rock tinged grungy sounding track. Its violent surge of death and anger related themes kick off an aggresively ear smashing, but all around awesome experience! The intense riffs give off the so-called “biker music” vibe of Motorhead, Judas Priest, and the like. Combine this with the intense vocals of Danzig to enhance that gothic feel. The lyrics create a seedy crime ridden urban hellscape that seems impossible to get out of, very sinister and almost noir-like. By all means, this track’s a high point on the album for me!

Other favorites include Bad Deeds, a song that jumps from Morricone composition to punkified gunslinger ballad that captures true, traditional country brilliance; Carry On, a possible chilling look into the psychosexual world of murderers, with possible eerie pedophile undertones (read the lyrics and you be the judge); and End of the Trail, a somber war ballad sung by a skeleton crew of a torn up regiment. This last one stands as a favorite as the emotion really shines in this track. You can almost visualize ironic hubris of the lyrics barely being pushed out of the mouths of weak, crippled, and mutilated soldiers; all of whom are desperately shambling to survive. The song portrays this self contained war story with a truly epic approach.

All in all, this album is a dark and dreary trip to Americana beyond the Ethereal. If you’re hoping for a little more variance, this album can deliver pretty well, but keeps to the slower tempo and grim atmosphere. And if deep and haunting vocals of Peter Steele, Glenn Danzig, and even Peter Murphy aren’t your thing, then this band might not be either. Though who knows, maybe The Proud and the Damned will change your mind (and swallow your soul!)

On a final note, you can find it via their bandcamp or on their website. Sure, it’s free, but give ‘em at least a good $15 for an asskickin’ album!

As always, stay scary!

-Necrotic

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