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Hot Ham & Cheese: The Onions Have Eyes

There may not be many better band names than Hot Ham & Cheese, but with a monicker like that, this lot better be tasty… The Onions Have Eyes is not only a worrying development, it's the HH&C's fourth full length outing and one that sees the power trio mix up classic rock and heavy blues with something a little more 90s. Indeed, when slammed under the grill and melted to dripping point, not only can opening cut "Scorpion's Dilemma" scald the skin from the roof of your mouth, it can also burrow deep into your mind.

Comprising the mysteriously named Charlie on vocals and guitars, Louie Styx on bass and Robby Mitchell on drums, the threesome's opening gambit makes no mistake in leaving a scintillating aftertaste. With vocals that remind of Audrey Horne's Toschie and a spiralling riff that grabs you hard and then tightens its grip, while the vibe is deep and bluesy, there's also a harder bite that makes you think of hard hitting metal. With only nine tracks - one of which is a cover version - you might think that with their blueprint clearly drawn, the Ham n' Cheesers would set about laying it in stone. Instead "Drones" adds a strangely Faith No More meets Rage Against The Machine twist, the chants of 'Drones! Drones! Drones!' screaming of Mike Patton, while the riff is suddenly dirtier and grungier. A richer, funkier, almost Clutch like chug and shove hits out from "Worth It Or Worthless", while "Onion Eyes" lands somewhere between Revenge era Kiss, Black Sabbath and Nirvana and in truth becomes dangerously messy as it does so; Charlie's vocals verging into shouts rather than the engaging howls of before.

At the halfway point in the original material on the album, there's a real possibility for TOHA to go one of two ways - it'll either cast aside the propensity to throw out an unfocused miss-match of styles and drill down deep into this band's true strengths - groove driven riffs, catchy melodies and powering drums - or continue the scattergun of genres and styles that have blighted things so far. The chant along of "12-Step Billy" answers the question, a sub-two minute piece not quite knowing whether it's a rock n' roll party or a punkish piece of petulance. "Fio-Lig" thrums and hums on a Red Hot Chilli like bass line but again, with a grungey guitar and Clutch like shout, tying down exactly what's being attempted proves disappointingly elusive. With "Living In The Gutter" suffering from the same afflictions, "Whitetail" chooses the grunge power ballad route, an almost Nirvana meets Soundgarden conglomeration proving that these two bands couldn't have been further apart in terms of sound if they'd tried. While closing out with a halfway house of rock and grunge on Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World" was only ever going to end with one outcome…

There's bags of talent on show here and more than a few glimmers of something really special hoping to burst through, but with many of the great ideas buried under self consciously gritty guitars and vocal snarls, you can't help but wonder what might have happened had Hot Ham & Cheese kept everything as tasty and simple as their name. In the end, while some of the flavours this album oozes with have you salivating, once you've had your fill, you know you've gulped down a meal a little short on meaty goodness, and heavy on the sauce.

Track Listing
1. Scorpion's Dilemma
2. Drones
3. Worth It Or Worthless
4. Onion Eyes
5. 12-Step Billy
6. Fio Lig
7. Living In The Gutter
8. Whitetail
9. Rockin' In The Free World

Added: December 3rd 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Jib Machine Records
Hits: 1209
Language: english

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