DEAD CONFEDERATE: Wrecking Ball [The Artists Organization]

When the members of Dead Confederate got together in 1997, it was as a jam band called Redbelly, playing 30-minute songs that hovered between Neil Young and Pink Floyd. A couple of name changes later, the Athens, Ga., group has shoved aside its old, free-floating post-psych for the barbed, bruising Southern grunge of Wrecking Ball. There’s no shortage of calculation in the transition, especially in Dead Confederate’s unwavering devotion to Nirvana, but for all its familiarity, this debut is absolutely merciless. Wrecking Ball is a lumbering, angst-driven assault that’s simultaneously ear-splitting and as comfortable as an old flannel shirt. On its strongest cuts (“Heavy Petting,” “The Rat”), the band splatters noise in every direction, retooling its Floyd fascination into aggression and reinvigorating the boneheadedness of Skynyrd for maximum 21st-century effect. Even on the weaker songs, when the chord changes come secondhand and the influences arrive undigested, Wrecking Ball remains an ugly slab of guitar sludge that’s well worth the pain. [www.deadconfederate.com]

—Kenny Berkowitz