⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

South American sludge metallurgists Asshole Neck are back with their thickest release since 2018’s World Class Mucus, the album that was voted “least nutritious” by the Chinese Screenwriters Guild of Canada.

With a decade of recording behind them, the band seems to have finally found the perfect balance between chops and choices. Layered, constructed parts that sound terrific alone and better together form sturdy tracks that crush as well as they roll. No more self indulgent scale-running or rudiment ripping. The punch is in the pudding: if it sounds good then do it, whether it’s simple or not.

There’s always been something off about Asshole Neck’s music, like records played a bit too fast or slow but party people keep dancing anyway. By making anything they play their own you never feel like an outsider; instead, you feel privy to the band’s private shows where anything goes.

Shut Up And Talk,” from 2020’s Outbarfed, favored an extreme drum sound that has lingered ever since and it’s the backbone of Cement Head‘s opener “Free The Machines,” a driving, flanged-guitar-looped nightmare that speeds up mercilessly until it self destructs into the calming waves of “Uncentric.” Jittery acoustic guitar sets off the doom-riffs and sewage bass of “Knuckle Drag,” the bounciest thumper bassist Paz Biers has written in some time. His limber lines get you tapping your way through “On A Bender,” a swan song of sorts about a driver with nowhere to go, while the drums and guitar keep chug-chugging along.

Singer Van Spotchnik somehow finds hooks where there aren’t any to be found, leading the way without stealing the show and having fun doing it. His backing guitar playing has improved as well, evidenced in the swirling fragments of “Put Up” and the dense harmonies of “Good Day Sir,” both richly complementing Hidalgo Radley’s lead work. The guitarist’s solos have never sounded fresher than they do here, carving and soaring above and below the raucous rhythms in searing fuzz or freezing muck. Keeping his sound clear enough to not only be heard over the clamor but to actually discern what notes he’s playing is no small feat so hats off to him and the uncredited recording engineer. Producer Ockshed will probably be sticking around as the Neck really seem to be in a good space.

This one isn’t going to alienate any fans of the band as it stays away from mudmetal’s current push toward more prominent vocals and the songs here are all heavier than on their previous release, With Flared Nostrils. That record’s songs all clocked in at four minutes or less and “Too Many Teeth (For Her)” was borderline radio friendly while “Feces Of You” was featured in teen comedy film Faculdade Bêbada. Cement Head‘s shortest track is a three and a half minute instrumental with two tempo changes and a drum solo so no worries about selling out. The band has earned this place they’ve made as well as the right to dominate it however they see fit. Hopefully for them and their fans it will continue to produce at such a high level as this.