Could the new album, Rose Mountain, from New Jersey punk band Screaming Females bring this beloved cult band and incredible live act into the mainstream? The band (comprised of singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster, bassist Jared Dougherty and drummer “King” Mike) has certainly delivered their most melodic set of songs to date while managing to retain the charms that have garnered the band so many fans.
Unlike previous albums, Screaming Females worked on this album with an outside producer, Matt Bayles. Bayles, who has produced for both Mastodon and The Sword, has managed to smooth away rough edges that have often featured on previous albums. And this album is concise – 10 songs in 36 minutes – compared to 2012’s sprawling Ugly.
Despite the comparatively smooth sound of this album, Screaming Females prove they still know how to rock out. The tracks are frequently a showcase for Paternoster’s unique style of guitar as she twists unnatural notes and riffs and shreds with the best of them. Her howling vocals are often at the forefront, particularly on the opening salvos of “Empty Head” and “Ripe.” Another stylistic change is the inclusion of two wonderful power ballads. “Wishing Well” alternates between quiet verses and a full throttle singalong chorus, while “Hopeless” begins as a solo Paternoster song before the band joins in for the chorus.
The band also pulls back from going for the jugular on every song, with the title track opening with a very heavy riff then opting for a jangling, almost indie-pop sensibility for the rest of the song. “Broken Neck” deals with Paternoster’s bouts of mono and has a thunderous chorus reminiscent of The Pixies.
The album covers more familiar territory as well. “Triumph” and “Criminal Image” are both all out rock anthems that play to the band’s strengths. The performances by the band members throughout are commendable, with Dougherty and King Mike keeping the low end nailed down while allowing space for Paternoster to indulge in guitar freak-outs.
The more polished nature of the album might annoy some of the band’s longstanding fans who prefer the grit of their earlier works. However, this album demonstrates the Screaming Females’ maturity and willingness to take risks, which is something that doesn’t always happen in punk rock circles. Also, the songs are bound to sound great live. It seems likely this album will get the band the recognition they have long deserved.
Rose Mountain is out now.