Sounding like a cross between early Tool and Dirt-era Alice In Chains, Assembly Line Gods go for dark menace mixed with a hint of the demonic from the outset of Shelter For My Enemy. “The Devil always wins,” singer David Samples snarls over his bandmates’ punctuated, chug-and-thump instrumentation on “Liberty Bell.” He’s referring to himself, by the way, and though you may not buy into the notion on this first track on the four-song EP, by the end it’s hard not to wonder.
Samples’s lyrical delivery pulls off a Maynard-esque haunting quality combined with a certain wicked bravado, but Satan is too high a standard to set. However, combined with the muscular, agile and super-tight playing of guitarist E.B. Cox, drummer Carson Underwood and bassist Josh Kroeger, the foursome crafts a dark yet well crafted melodic sound that manages a neat trick: It’s metal that doesn’t sound angry, or even like it’s trying to be. The music revels in the sinister, but there’s a calmness to it that enhances its shadowy sneer. Each successive song reveals it a little more, with the steady build of the six-minute-plus “Coil” bringing the EP to a wicked close.
Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about this hard-rock album is that it doesn’t follow some of the common conventions of the genre today. The playing is impactful without trying for a constant sonic pounding; the musicians pick their spots to play louder and harder, and they generally pick them well. Though the references and allusions to Satan and other alternate deities is a bit cliche, but it sure beats the self-loathing content of other modern metal. It doesn’t hurt to have a band that can pull off the eery, on-edge vibe with the skill this group can. The four-song format of the album leaves one wondering what the group can do with a full-length album. Can the mephistophelian theme hold up over the duration? Can the band play even better? We’ll have to wait and see. Till then, Shelter For My Enemy is a more than worthy pickup for any modern hard-rock fan.