I absolutely hate it when a band puts out a completely badass album and then almost immediately breaks up. One of the most frustrating examples I can remember is recent years is Anti-Mortem. The Oklahoma band’s first album New Southern arrived in 2014, and it blew me away. It was a collection of fantastic hard rock with occasional hints of Southern rock and thrash. If Judas Priest hadn’t put out an incredible album that year as well, New Southern would have been, far and away, my pick for album of the year, and it's been a staple in my playlist for the last two years.
“Path to Pain” provides a pretty good microcosm of what that album is all about. The tune is tough-as-nails, yet it also has some leanings toward a more commercial brand of rock that could appeal to a wider audience. Granted, the lyrical content of this particular song was not likely to earn it a lot of airplay, but it will give you the idea of what they could have done, and it remains one of my favorites from a record with very few low points.
The song opens with a huge snarling guitar riff, but for the verse takes a turn into a more commercial hard rock sound. Vocalist Larado Romo delivers the lyrics in a grungy moan that slowly builds into him unleashing his full voice, one of the strengths of the band, with a great hard rock tone and a ton of versatility. That big riff comes back for the chorus hook, completing a heavy song that’s also catchy as hell.
Unfortunately, there won’t be more like this on the way. The brother tandem of vocalist Larado Romo and guitarist Nevada Romo went on to form Cosmic Wool, a decent rock band with some psychedelic overtones. I’ve heard a couple of enjoyable songs from them, but nothing that comes to close to the power of the weakest song on New Southern. Guitarist Zain Smith went on to form a band called The Locust Grove, and they’re recording right now. The few clips I’ve heard put them a little closer to what Anti-Mortem was doing, and I look forward to hearing what they bring to the table.
It still sucks, though, that a band with so much promise went down the tubes so quickly. Anti-Mortem, I believe, was exactly the kick in the ass that the hard rock world needs right now, and I wish they had survived to deliver it.