Colombian Necktie’s first album – 2014’s Twilight Upon Us – was a decent enough little blast of sludgy hardcore, but not one that held a lot of staying power for me. There’s always potential in the mash-up of metallic riff and punk aggression, but that mixture isn’t particularly unique, of course, and Colombian Necktie had little more than spit and spirit to separate them from the scores of similar outfits plying variations upon the theme. Shades of Soilent Green, progless Mastodon, scads of scabby NOLAs and hardcore bashers – it was all there, distilled down to the basics and applied with no particularly distinctive approach beyond anger.
Flash forward two years, and here’s All Paths Lead Nowhere, which belies its title by leading somewhere, if only at least toward refinement of the band’s sound. Now sporting an increased emphasis on 70s-rock-on-steroids stoner grooves to go with the crashing and screaming, All Paths is an improvement upon its elder brother, although it’s not without its faults, and mostly those faults are the same, just far less pronounced.
Opening with the greasy swing of “Burn The Bridge,” Paths dives right into the stoner stream with one of its most distinctive and catchy guitar riffs – which also immediately highlights Paths‘ only real flaw. Throughout the album, riffs or hooks creep out, poke through the straightforward sludgy ‘core around them, but only rarely do they coalesce into a complete song. There are certainly moments of potential in each of the following three, like the riffs in “Linestepper,” but any goodwill engendered by those parts gets sort of derailed in the marijuana anthem “Don’t Fear The Reefer,” which comes off as either too serious or too silly, depending on what you’re looking for. The album’s best numbers come in its second half: the shout-along call and response vocals and pure punk drive of “Proletariat Blues,” which drops neatly into the noisy “33-16” and, after the uninteresting “The Mirror’s Reflection,” the drifting-to-grooving ride of “Untitled.”
All in all, there’s nothing at all wrong with All Paths Lead To Nowhere – it’s certainly a significant step forward for Colombian Necktie, and it points to greater things to come. It’s the next step in the evolution of a band that seems to be growing before our eyes (or ears, rather). But it’s still pretty straightforward stoner-y sludgy hardcore, with a few great riffs and a few good grooves and a few good songs. It’s not gonna light your world up, but it’s not gonna bring you down, either — it’s a good enough time while it lasts, and that’s something. But it’s still not quite enough.