Photos by Jamie Griffin
Review by Jeremy Benson

By most accounts, I live a subdued life. Exhibit A: I drive a minivan. B: I work retail. C. I've been known to eat whole packs of saltine crackers for lunch, and enjoy it.

But even the most white of loaves needs to be toasted every once in a while; needs to melt butter and taste jam. In other words: at some point, we all need to crank the volume and headbang.

Enter Neighborhood Muscle, who have just produced their self-titled CD, available now at live shows (some tracks can be previewed on Myspace, too).

The group is undoubtedly metal, but not to the point of alienating the not-yet-initiated. Not so much like heavy-handed lead-footed death metal, or the bizarre, neo-classical shreds of Yngwie Malmsteen, Neighborhood Muscle aligns more closely with the Welsh alt rockers Lost Prophets. Neighborhood Muscle's name fits their style: effectively a wall of sound, but it's a recognizable wall.

And yet, there are surprises. Drummer Nick Zimmerman regularly pulls out a cowbell to drive a chorus home. And on "1,000 Witches," the bass line leads a swanky keyboard groove into the instrumental, which bridges between traditional metal guitar riffs. The keyboards return tracks later as rhythm on "Mer-Monkey," reminding us all that metal, after all, is still related to the blues.

I recommend giving the album justice by plugging it in to the right sound equipment, preferably stereos and speakers that go up to 11. However, as long as I'm making recommendations, the best way to hear the collection of songs is probably to see Neighborhood Muscle live.

Really, no matter where or when you hear it, there is only one way to listen to Neighborhood Muscle, which is with your head banging and your fist raised.

©Jeremy Benson, 2010