A Garden Full of Axes

By Jim Fusilli

It’s been a long, slow slog toward success for Atlanta-based O’Brother. The quintet released its first EP in 2006 and a second three years later. Its new “Garden Window” (Triple Crown) is its first full-length album. The title is misleading: O’Brother doesn’t make gentle music suitable for contemplating nature. It detonates a brutalizing blend of industrial rock, alt-metal and metal featuring a three-guitar attack and the savvy, limber work of drummer Michael Martens. O’Brother’s strength is the cohesion of its rhythm section; Mr. Martens and brothers Anton and Johnny Dang, who play bass and guitar, respectively, have been together for 14 years. Tanner Merritt, who sings and plays guitar, and guitarist Aaron Wamack came on board when O’Brother retooled in 2008.

“When Tanner joined, it was the first time any of us were in a band with three guitars,” Mr. Martens said by phone. “We didn’t want the music to be too muddy.”

Flooding the midrange with guitars under the vocals can generate a plodding thickness, but O’Brother addresses the issue by allowing Mr. Wamack to toy with textures and play sparingly while Johnny Dang solos, thus creating in some numbers an appealing sense of space. Sharp-edged feedback splinters into the upper range—you would think it might saw off Mr. Merritt’s head while he’s singing up there—but the group will deploy a baritone guitar to fill the spectrum between guitar and bass. Mr. Martens and bassist Anton Dang hold it all together….

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