Akimbo’s Jersey Shores is a post-hardcore/metal concept album about shark attacks in New Jersey.
It’s tempting to leave this review at that very sentence—pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t take much more than the words “metal” and “shark attacks” to pique my interest, but to hold that interest takes something more than ironic schlock. But Jersey Shores is a far cry from FuckYeahSharks: The Album. Jersey Shores finds its muse in true life horrors—the album revolves around the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, in which four people were killed and one was injured in the course of 12 days. As a result of the attacks, scientists began to question what they knew about sharks, though the resources at their disposal were far less sophisticated than they are today, mind you. People began to fear “man-eating sharks.” Shark hunts ensued. Peter Benchley wrote Jaws. Akimbo plugged in.
To capture the magnitude of the perceived horror, however, takes a certain skill, a heaviness and an abrasiveness that can shred like the Great White’s teeth through the current. The album spans six tracks over 45 minutes, alternately epic and brutal, with moments of ethereality interspersed between Nat Damm’s punishing rhythms and Jon Weisnewski’s intense wails. Like a cousin to Mastodon’s whale hunt in Leviathan, yet filtered through Jesus Lizard-style abrasion, Jersey Shores is an awesome sound to behold. On merciless opening track “Matawan,” the band’s relative calm mirrors that of the seemingly safe waters, bass and guitar riffs sinisterly floating along before the song erupts into a brutal churn, as Weisnewski howls, “don’t forget the tide, she asks a heavy toll.” Later on the song descends into a screeching vertigo of subdued rhythm and dissonant guitar creeping high on the neck, like the dizzying aftermath of one’s first confrontation with the leviathan.
“Bruder Vansant,” which combines the last names of two victims of the fateful attacks, chugs with a slow, Melvins-like sludge, only to still the waters once again before chumming it with more fierce riffs. “Lester Stillwell,” named for yet another victim, is the album’s peak, an 11-minute monster of a song that builds from ethereally terrifying chords and string scraping to a menacing opus. Weisnewski’s anguished screams become all the more poignant as he roars “I’ll bring the boy home” over a subdued interlude, only to kick up another storm of distortion, concluding with the dark admission, “The demon is going to take him…down.” And with the relatively brief “Great White Bull,” the ambiguous predator is embodied, as are the helpless tourists, as Weisnewski reminds us all to “remember your place in this world.”
Historians and scientists still debate over what kind of sharks attacked in July of 1916, and for what reason. And, in a way, the myth has become bigger than the events themselves. Akimbo, however, make a monstrous enough sound (and from a trio, no less), to encapsulate the unholy creature from the deep. Just one word of warning: you may need a bigger boat.
Mastodon – Leviathan
The Jesus Lizard – Goat
Harvey Milk – Life…the Best Game In Town
MP3: “Great White Bull”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.