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grunge vets Gruntruck releasing “lost” album (hear “Noise Field”)

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For music fans of a certain age and pedigree, the name Gruntruck might elicit a knowing grin and hazy memories of late-night Headbanger’s Ball sessions featuring the video for “Tribe.” Others too young for (or indifferent to) the grunge scene might have only heard about the band in passing; one of those “other” Seattle bands like Green River, Mother Love Bone, or Malfunkshun.

Gruntruck never came close to approaching the success of grunge’s Big Four: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. But like plenty of other regional scenes, Gruntruck shared a camaraderie and occasional band member with other bands, as well as producer and Skin Yard guitarist Jack Endino, who would work with the band on both of their studio albums.

After a long and tumultuous legal battle over a contract dispute with Roadrunner Records, the band recorded a third album in the early Aughts with Endino and Martin Feveyear (QOTSA, Mudhoney) and took what was to be a short break to let singer/guitarist Ben McMillan recover from some health issues. Sadly, McMillan passed away in January 2008 and the record was shelved… until now.

Gruntruck is a grunge mosquito captured in amber, a perfectly preserved snapshot of a sound and time. Gruntruck, like Alice In Chains and TAD, had been on the heavier end of the Seattle spectrum, borrowing just as liberally from metal sources as they did punk and hard rock. Gruntruck emphatically continues that legacy on album midpoint “Noise Field” which you can stream below.

Building off an ominous wah riff, McMillan’s Staley-by-way-of-Danzig vocals move through peaks and valleys as drummer Norman Scott lays down a hefty, Bonham-esque backbeat. The distortion is high and tight, but not cranked to 11; there is still some midrange to be found in Endino’s solid production. While there isn’t a solo, small guitar flourishes throughout give the track a distinct personality, heavy and harrowing, recalling early Alice In Chains and Houdini/Stoner Witch-era Melvins. And just like those bands’ best songs, it’s catchy and memorable.

Grunge was as popular as it was because its purveyors worked and flourished in the critical space between melody and anti-melody, that Bermuda Triangle somewhere between the Beatles, Black Sabbath, and Black Flag. McMillan’s voice may be gone, but hopefully this release will reach a new generation of fans; or hell, even get some old heads to reconsider just how great this stuff still sounds.

Gruntruck will be released October 13th via Found Recordings. Preorder the album here.

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