Rooted in the burial grounds of where grunge arose and fell lies a newer band by the name of Substratum, hailing from right here in the states out of Seattle, Washington. Permission To Rock is actually their second album, dropping at the dawn of this year, following up their 2016 debut self titled album. Substratum tackles a very traditional style of heavy metal, geared a little more towards the ’80s sound rather the ’70s, but not straying too far into any particular direction genre wise. Therefore, this makes for a pretty fun listen with a lot of jam-tastic melody. It does lack hooks, so the chance of catching an ear worm is subtle, but overall, there’s some solid stuff here.
An immediately noticeable feature is Permission To Rock‘s refusal to screw around with tacky intros or cheese drenched effects, and it gets straight to the punch immediately on “Rough Rider”. Though the album art may suggest otherwise, don’t let it fool you. Every track is a well produced riff-fest that doesn’t exaggerate speed nor show a lot of weakness. Utilizing harder distortions that come through very cleanly and sticking to a steady rhythm is the core of the music here. Nothing is overly complicated, and originality definitely isn’t a strength, but what is prompt is put together very well and concise. Along with the production, the vocals soften up the texture, as there isn’t anything menacing about them, and there’s definitely a glam-like feel to some of the songs (not a bad thing at all). Some of the lyrical themes suggest glam roots as well at times, mostly shining through with the obsession with “rocking”. On another note, they also somewhat resemble the vocals of the great Geddy Lee of Rush, with that high squeaky tone that allows harsher power to push through from time to time. So vocally, there’s a lot of ways to interpret this.
What this lacks is the ability to stain a memory in the brain. Everything’s pretty tight, but I certainly wouldn’t call it super memorable by any means, and definitely doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table. Thankfully, that isn’t required in order to create a good release, it’s just a huge booster. Some of the longer tracks can seem somewhat filler-ish at times, such as “Cemetery Of State”, but it’s nothing that’s too big of a deal. The second side (if you get the tape) is a little smoother than the first side, and throws in acoustic pieces to bring out some of their ability to weave in different emotions. The album closer “Up On Wheels” is probably the greatest standout, with its fast nature and the way it brings in all of the best qualities into a short three minute track. Plus, the acoustic number to proceed it is rather soothing.
At the end of the day, this is definitely a solid release worth hearing at least once, but likely will take several to get into. Nothing overly complex or amazing, but definitely pieced together very well, and doesn’t run on for too long. Fans of early rock, metal, and glam would certainly be the first to appreciate this.