Releasing "The Dead Next Door" as a trio on Solid State Records in 1999, "The Sideshow Whiplash" EP as a quartet on Goodfellow Records in 2001, SPITFIRE called it quits. With guitarists Scottie Henry (NORMA JEAN) and Dan Tulloh (SCARLET) in tow, SPITFIRE reformed as a quintet in 2005 and recently released "Self-Help", again on Goodfellow.
Considering how many spastic and technical metalcore outfits currently taking up shelf space, I couldn't help but wonder if "Self-Help" would even be worth spinning, as I was sure it would bore me to tears. "Lots of discordant riffs, abrasive (and annoying) scream vocals, and unpredictable song structures from yet another CONVERGE descendent just could not be very damn interesting in 2006," I thought to myself. As it turns out, "Self-Help" is a fine representation of the band's rough, ragged, and relatively ambitious brand of metalcore muscle.
So OK, CONVERGE roots run deep; this is no surprise. So do those of THE MELVINS. Now we're getting somewhere. With "Self-Help", SPITFIRE work within a compositional framework constructed from thick, growling bass lines, the occasional stutter in the step (ala EVERY TIME I DIE), and a heck of a lot of weighty riffs and scarred chords. Fortunately, the boys utilize disharmonious licks in ways that keep the edges sharp and jagged, but do not drive the songs into the ground by wandering aimlessly or making noise for noise's sake. A hefty amount of sludge anchors many of these tunes well, making the arrangements nice and beefy. "Meat Market", "Go Ape", "Life and Limb", "Dear John", and the lyrically compelling "Leap of Faith" twist and turn with a purpose and still trample the weak. "The Great White Noise" is one of the fastest and most effective tracks, its delivery chest thumping and earsplitting. Perhaps the best example of the band's dynamic on "Self-Help" is the manner in which it deftly balances frantic bursts with a lumbering gait on "Comfort (The Iceman Cometh)".
"Self-Help" will not turn me into a hardcore fan or cause me to revamp my CD collection with an influx of the noisy and the chaotic. On the other hand, the album does demonstrate to me that with a little thought and a lot of soul, the style can be rather enjoyable.