Ohio-spawned Contra are a sludge-drenched doom four-piece who pack a groove-fuelled punch and, with the release of their new album, have proven they are hefty contenders within their field not to be messed with. Contra originally started life as a three-piece instrumental outfit comprising of guitarist Chris Chiera (Sofa King Killer), drummer Aaron Brittain (Rue), and Adam Horwatt (So Long Albatross) on a 4-string baritone guitar instead of having a traditional bass player. This incarnation of the band released their debut EP Son Of A Beast as an instrumental EP before enlisting the powerful lungs of vocalist Larry Brent, adding vocals to previously-penned songs and writing new material for this debut album Deny Everything, which is released on July 1st on Robustfellow
‘Human Buzzsaw’ is the opening track, and gets off to a no-nonsense start, kicking straight in with 70s-vibe hard rock riffage. Chiera wastes no time in delivering wailing guitar leads which in places are reminiscent of modern-day anthems by scene greats such as the late Hang The Bastard, and Brent’s vocals add a bellowing, gravelly, undeniable Brian Fallon likeness to what is a pounding opening track. There’s naturally going to be a comparison to Bongcouldron by the British stoner fan club, and hell, that’s no bad thing. The album’s namesake is derived from a line in this track which is thumping and groovy for the most part, slowing down in the final throws until it’s a thick swamp of sludge for the closing 30 seconds. Pursuing the battering ram of the opening track is ‘Snake Goat; perhaps a slightly cliché title for a doom track, but this guaranteed hit has earned the right to bare that title. It’s a groove-laden sludge smash hit, with powerful riffs you can’t help but nod your head to. Brittain drives this encumbered force while Chiera’s sleek guitar hooks give the track some air guitar-ring material, and there’s a saucy breakdown just crying out for some air-punch hand gesturing.
‘Altered Beast’ has remained an instrumental and is a serious foot-tapper, boasting groovy riffs and even featuring a fitting appearance from a cowbell, a track that clearly didn’t need much tampering with since the original EP. The track ebbs and flows through a few different riff ideas and the main hook is excellent. Chiera finds ample opportunities to solo over the varying riffs that drive this chugging tune, which changes its feel at the midway point; once Brittain switches to the ride symbol the track consequently could be mistaken for the outro to an epic. But before you get too comfortable, that first riff rolls back around and carries you to the end of a monumental track.
‘One Hundred Hand Slap’ is another potential single. Within the first ten seconds you’re hailing the riff. It’s slick and simultaneously meaty. The rest of the album continues handing out the heavy, dealing polished, monolithic riffage, before coming to the monumental closer ‘Shrimp Cocktail’: mighty guitar and thumping breakdowns trudging relentlessly for eight sinister anticipatory minutes. The pinnacle of this track is the stoner middle portion. A steady repetitive riff drives the section with an imperturbable persistent rhythm section hammering the snare, characteristic of the heavy stoner sound. Vocals return, Chiera sprinkles the odd solo, and the band gradually returns us from the desert to the swamp.
When you’ve got an album cover as bad ass as two muscular gorillas fighting mythical sea monsters and werewolves with guns, you need the soundtrack to match, and Deny Everything certainly delivers. You might not have heard of Contra, but one listen to this album of stoned doom dripping in sludge, and it’s clear they’re ready to take a rightful place beside other acclaimed contributors of the current scene.