Borgo Pass, Deadwater: Sharks off Long Island

Has it really been six years since Borgo Pass released their last album? Nervosa, which came out in 2005, saw the band refine the harder Southern take of the 2002 Slightly Damaged EP, itself the follow-up to 1999’s excellent Powered by Sludge, and now in kind, the long-running Long Island outfit issue their next installment in the 50-minute Deadwater. Like all their albums, it’s self-released, and though the band claims to be “looking for a label home” on their sundry web-presences, I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t have been picked up by now had they really wanted to. They’ve never been a touring act to the best of my recollection, but to think of the slew of East Coast hard rock and metal acts who managed to find labels, it’s hard to believe they didn’t have offers at some point in the last 15-plus years. Shit, if E-Town Concrete can sign to Razor & Tie, surely Borgo Pass could’ve been picked up by someone.

That’s not a sonic comparison, by the way, just thinking of another act of formidable presence in its own region not really known outside of it. And at this point, Borgo Pass are the kings of Long Island. They can always be relied upon to draw a crowd – an eager crowd at that – and they never fail to proffer solid, melodically-aware, guitar-led metal that’s accessible and catchy well beyond the point of commercial viability, but that nonetheless retains some edge of underground-mindedness. On Deadwater, their radio-friendly heaviness comes to full boar. Vocalist James Tamarazzo never screams outright, but clearly puts his whole stomach into his approach nonetheless, and dual guitarists Tom Crane and Paul Rosado lead the rhythm section of bassist Thomas J. Karcher and drummer Joe Wood through 10 tracks (and a bonus Black Sabbath cover, “Tomorrow’s Dream”) of straightforward American metal structures. There are some ears for which Deadwater is going to simply sound too commercial – including, at points, my own – but there’s little on the album to argue against Borgo Pass having long since mastered their craft.

In the interest of full disclosure, I know Joe Wood personally, have been in and still am in bands with him and consider him a good friend. That said, I think even he would probably acknowledge that Borgo Pass lie outside the realm of my usual stylistic haunts. Although there are some Southern-style riffs to be had from Deadwater highlight “Quint” or the über-Down-influenced “Burning Breath,” for the most part, Borgo Pass have long since grown out of their Powered by Sludge ethic and into a much less genre-specific methodology. Most of Deadwater resides somewhere on the line between hard rock and metal – beefy tones from the strings, double-kick from Wood and Tamarazzo’s post-Anselmo inflection nonetheless smoothly presented and never quite tipping over into full-on abrasion. The thing about Borgo Pass more than 15 years into their career, however, is they’re exactly what they want to be, and their songwriting ability has never been so apparent as it is on Deadwater. Late-album tracks like “Sea of Inverted Crosses” and “Flesh and Bone” make epics out of memorable choruses, and the earlier “Raised by Wolves/Sell Me Something Different” – which is as close as they come to any kind of doomed sensibility here – manages to balance its nod-worthy groove with the record’s crisp, professional production to wind up consistent with the rest of the material.

The five-piece make a couple missteps in the semi-ballads “Embrace” and “Bless,” which appear at the ends of Deadwater’s two halves, the latter coming right before the aforementioned “Tomorrow’s Dream” cover. I understand after four consistent, rocking cuts, some change is warranted, but “Embrace” falls flat, and, as it follows largely the same pattern, “Bless” all the more telegraphs where it’s headed. By and large, though, Borgo Pass deliver with their latest album precisely what it is they’re best at delivering, and topped off with a gorgeous cover as Deadwater is, I’m not about to hold playing to their strengths against them if it runs counter to my personal taste. It can seem formulaic at times, and as ever for the band, they’re more likely to find favor among hard-rocking DJs than snobbish, overly-wordy genre critics, but one gets the sense in listening to Deadwater that that suits Borgo Pass just fine.

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