Step Cousin

Step Cousin
Step Cousin - Experiments in Sound (Corduroy) 2000
Step Cousin - Experiments in Sound [Expanded]
(Corduroy) 2012

1. Where the Door Leads (3:58)
2. Bitter Reminder (2:23)
3. Slide The Wheel (2:51)
4. To the Grave (3:02)
5. Can't Get Out (3:40)
6. Raised from the Silence (2:24)
7. Despise (2:55)
8. Take It All Away (4:57)
9. You Remain (3:00)
10. I Will Surrender (4:05)
11. Bitter Reminder 2 (2:44)
12. Tribulation (3:40)
13. Fear No Fear (3:41)
14. Prodigal and Swine (3:41)

Step Cousin are a heavy metal band formed by Kelly Matthews (Drums, Bass, Vocals) and Jeff Grady (Guitars) in Missouri, USA. Kelly and Jeff also make up the core of Lordchain. "Experiments in Sound" was the band's first full-length album, originally released in 2000 on the band's own Corduroy Records. The album was only pressed in limited quantities and was nearly impossible to find. Finally in December 2012, the album was remastered and finally re-released on CD with five bonus tracks.

My initial interest in this band stemmed from the fact that they recorded a cover of Vengeance Rising's "Can't Get Out". With that, I had to check out Step Cousin and purchased the original CD pressing of "Experiments" back in the early 2000's. "Experiments in Sound" is more than just the title of this album, it's also a statement of what to expect. For the most part Step Cousin play their own brand of thrash metal fused with a lot of early death metal influences. In fact, at times the band reminds me of early Mortification, so much so in fact that when I first received the CD I checked the liner notes to see if perhaps Steve Rowe was brought in as a guest vocalist for some songs. Several of the songs have that early Mort sound. As a matter of fact, "Raised from the Silence" and "Despise" both could have been recorded by Mortification. However, this band doesn't stick rigidly to this style and throw in plenty of surprises.

Nothing is more of a surprise than a flute solo in the middle of opening track "Where the Door Leads". The song is a mid-paced number with heavy, crunchy guitars and the whimsy flute solo stands in stark contrast. As well, Kelly Matthews doesn't stick to any one style of vocals on this album. While the lion's share of the vocals are of the growled thrash metal variety, there are also clean vocals and even some hardcore-style shouts mixed in. "Slide the Wheel" opens with some clean vocals while  "Take It All Away" starts off with guttural death vocals that later morph back into the thrash style then into some clean vocals during the chorus that almost sound out of place in this song. Of course this all falls under the banner of "experiments" in sound. Surprisingly the Vengeance Rising cover stays pretty true to the original. The original album ended with "You Remain", a groove laden track that sounds a bit more like Kelly and Jeff's other band Lordchain.

The 2012 comes with a four page insert and has five bonus tracks. Though the insert isn't fancy, it does feature a song by song commentary by Kelly Matthews. The bonus tracks are a nice addition as well. In particular the heavy mid-paced grind of "I Will Surrender" fits neatly onto this album. The album now ends with a somber acoustic track titled "Prodigal and Swine".

Innocence Before Oblivion Step Cousin - Innocence Before Oblivion (Corduroy Boy) 2002

1. "Deceiver" (3:09)
2. "Break My Legs" (3:07)
3. "Lonely Garden" (3:20)
4. "Wash Away" (2:56)
5. "Standing on the Mountain" (6:26)
6. "Power Jukie" (3:14)
7. "Hate Me" (4:12)
8. "I Was Alive" (3:35)
9. "Hook Through the Lip" (3:21)
10. "Inside This Mind" (3:42)
11. "God in a Box" (3:53)
12. "Spell of the World" (4:06)
13. "Treading Tainted Waters" (3:27)

"Innocence Before Oblivion" is mid-paced, groove oriented heavy metal. For some reason I remember the first album being a bit heavier and more thrash oriented that this CD. The first three tracks actually remind me of Eternal Decision. It's not until track four "Wash Away" that the band kicks up the tempo a bit. This song actually reminds me of Mortification, with even the vocals emmulating Steve Rowe here and there. The Mortification influence continues right into the next few tracks, "Standing on the Mountain", "Power Junkie" and especially "God in a Box". "I Was Alive" is a slow, doomy song that was originally written by Randy Rose. The lyrics, as on their first disc, are straight forward evangelistic, dealing with Christian issues and even some moments of pure Adonia worship. Also worth mentioning is that the cover art was done by Troy Dunmire, who has done many of Mortification's covers as well.

Evolution Religion Step Cousin -  The Evolution Religion (independent) 2010

1.   In My Darkest Hour (4:11)
2.   Behind the Veil (4:57)
3.   The Evolution Religion (6:02)
4.   Tear On My Pillow 4:21)
5.   Obituary (4:40)
6.   A Friend Like You (4:43)
7.   Cold (5:18)
8.   Scarred (4:55)
9.   Life and Dreams (5:40)
10. I Don't Need It (3:26)
11. This Is the Time (4:16)

Jeff Grady and Kelly Matthews return in 2010 with their third Step Cousin release, once again self released on their own Corduroy Boy label. Step Cousin's sound is often described at thrash metal, and that most certainly is a big part of their sound. However, this is not straight forward thrash metal, nor is it an attempt at retro-thrash. As in the past, Step Cousin allow some of their influences to come through their music. "Behind the Veil" has some obvious and blatant similarities to classic Mortification. This up-tempo song is a death/thrash song for the most part with growled vocals, save for the chorus which is groove based and features clean, shouted vocals. The song also has two mid-paced breakdowns with a wah-wah solo, one in the middle of the song and one at the end. The title track is perhaps one of the best songs on the album and again has some similarities to Mortification, including the growled vocals. The song is features a heavy riff and some hard hitting lyrics about the creation vs. evolution debate. There are some bits of someone preaching about the debate sprinkled throughout the song as well. Following the first bit of preaching the band breaks into a progressive, instrumental section that offers a definite nod to Tourniquet. "Tears on My Pillow" is a speedy metal song with mostly clean vocals. There's an interesting audio sample break  after the chorus of a woman speaking in German. (At least I think it's German.) Without going into each and every song, Step Cousin offer a solid metal album that mixes together modern thrash and groove with some old school death metal vocals and some clean vocals. I personally like Kelly Matthews more aggressive death and thrash metal style vocals over the cleaner singing voice. The band also offers up a few other surprises such as a dueling flute and guitar solo in "A Friend Like You". 

Artwork by Troy Dunmire who is known for his work with Mortification. I find this to be one of his better illustrations, ranking up with Mortification's "Primitive Rhythm Machine". 

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