U.S.S.A. - The Spoils review

Band: U.S.S.A.
Album: The Spoils
Release date: September 2007

01. Dead Voices
02. Autumn Flowers
03. Blue Light
04. Cruel Beauty
05. Middletown
06. Summer Endless Summer
07. Forget Yourself
08. Cab Ride
09. Peculiar Thing
10. Only Sugarwater
11. Wasteland

After 2003's Animositisomina, Paul Barker left Ministry to pursue other musical challenges. USSA, a band that also includes Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard and Tomahawk fame, is the latest manifestation of Barker's current musical journey. Sadly, USSA's debut, The Spoils, is not without its fair share of faults. Nevertheless, it is definitely an interesting record from a musical point of view, and should definitely appeal to fans of the experimental side of Ministry's music and Jesus Lizard; however, also to fans of Christian Death, Faith No More, Blackouts and Damage Manual.

USSA specializes in a somewhat plodding, 'chuggy' brand of metalized post-punk. Most songs are based on intricate and looped drum and bass arrangements, onto which Denison pastes his innovative guitar squeaks, textures and riffs. The band's sound is completed by Gary Call's somewhat desperate-sounding vocals ranting about moderately cryptic topics. The main problem with all of this is that none of the musicians in the band are particularly well known for their ability to write melodic and dynamic music. This results in a fair portion of the tracks on The Spoils being far too droning and plodding for their own good, as the listener is left with the impression that the repeated bass and guitar phrases simply go nowhere. "Middletown", "Summer Endless Summer" and "Cab Ride" are just the most obvious example of this shortcoming; however, many songs on the album share the same criticism. The Spoils's saving grace is therefore the few tracks which see the band flexing their songwriting muscle a bit more. "Dead Voices" and "Blue Light" are such songs, whereas "Autumn Flowers" and "Cruel Beauty" are the highlights of the entire album, since they feature very memorable refrains. Also of interest are the Land Of Rape And Honey-era Ministry sounding "Forget Yourself" and the particularly sonically experimental "Only Sugarwater". To make matters more confusing in assessing the value of this record, "Peculiar Thing" turns the above criticism regarding monotony on its head since it manages to be memorable and unique without abandoning any of the band's tribal leanings.

The Spoils is still worth hearing, regardless of its faults, as described above. After all, monotonous, trance-inducing rock also has its own dedicated audience and USSA's less dynamic songs will probably appeal to them. For everyone else, this is an album with its share of problems and a few very powerful gems.


Written on 02.11.2007 by With Metal Storm since 2002, jupitreas has been subjecting the masses to his reviews for quite a while now. He lives in Warsaw, Poland, where he does his best to avoid prosecution for being so cool.

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