When we last left the Screaming Females, they were shooting from the hip. The Chalk Tape EP, released in 2013, found the New Brunswick trio more or less winging seven tracks as inspiration struck them. All in all, it was a harmless experiment, and the fast and loose approach fit the band’s unfettered punk style. But Rose Mountain, the band’s sixth album, is a whole different beast, one that shows exactly what the trio can do with a little added time, polish, and attention to detail.
Screaming Females hinted at the potential to break free and open up their sound on previous albums like 2009’s Power Move and 2010’s Castle Talk, but Rose Mountain carries that promise to fruition. With its raunchy guitar fuzz, pulverizing guitar solos, and frontwoman/guitarist Marissa Paternoster’s wobbly alto, it’s a breakthrough record in the truest sense. After 10 years of toiling in the muck-caked guitar rock underground, Screaming Females appear poised to make good on their steadily escalating hype.
This is the record where the Females escape the punk shadow that’s long threatened to typecast them. While calling them punk isn’t an altogether wrong way of sizing them up, it doesn’t tell the whole tale, either. To prove the point, Rose Mountain’s 10 songs owe much more to the gritty stoner riffage of early Black Sabbath than anything else. Paternoster’s guitar work does the bulk of the heavy lifting on tunes like “Empty Head” and “Triumph”, while her words match the music’s emotional intensity blow for blow.
“I said peel the skin raw,” Paternoster spits on “Ripe”, another burst of crunchy rock that makes good on her ugly command. But the record also has a solid pop sense. When the band isn’t throwing punches, songs like “Wishing Well” and “Hopeless” show that their songwriting can lean on something deeper than pure brawn and gusto.
With Paternoster at the helm, Screaming Females are the next band reaching for the mantle in a year already defined by powerful women marking their rock ‘n’ roll territory. “Don’t count on me again,” Paternoster says on “Hopeless”. Given the heat the band’s packing on Rose Mountain, that’s advice listeners would be smart to ignore.
Essential Tracks: “Empty Head”, “Ripe”, and “Triumph”