Over the course of three albums, Austin’s Amplified Heat have distinguished themselves through high-flying musicianship and an almost fetishistic devotion to power-trio boogie after the fashion of Cream and Blue Cheer. That the band- comprised of brothers Chris, Jim and Gian Ortiz- has mastered their chosen idiom is beyond question; Chris and Gian, in particular, come startlingly close to reproducing the frantic, hard-grooving interplay of Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.
However, the band’s music has always felt hemmed in, whether by the strictures of the style, which takes no account of the monumental innovations in hard rock post-1970; or by frontman Jim’s workmanlike singing; or simply by the limitations of their musical imaginations. Amplified Heat have always been an exciting band to watch, but to an extent, their music has lacked variety.
On the Hunt shows the band beginning to address these limitations. Jim hasn’t expanded his melodic vocabulary much, but the delivery and production of his vocals are varied a bit more to compensate. “Lost” and “Stop Drop, & Roll” overdub Jim’s voice and treat it with reverb for extra body and atmosphere, while the title track and the amusingly juvenile “Strong Arm” (“Shut your face!”) deliver the raw attitude that best serve a guywho sings like Lemmy Kilmister. Jim accompanies himself live on the acoustic “Louisiana Hobo Blues,” and though the song goes on a little long, the simplicity of the performance imparts a gruff charm to his strained singing.
On much of the album, though, the vocals are helped along substantially by the band’s virtuosic music, which seems to be expanding incrementally on the stock blues forms that they tend to fall back on. Opener “Give It To Me” jumps invigoratingly between a slow blues and double-time swing, with Jim’s guitar solo jumping the boundary as Chris comps furiously. Meanwhile, “Stop, Drop & Roll” punctuates a high-energy boogie with brief bursts of sustained minor chords and an impressively concise drum solo, bookending the combination with subdued rumbling. Some of the album’s strongest moments come during the dizzying “Ain’t Trying To Deny,” which concludes with a long build from a smoky crawl to a pounding, explosive finale. As always, Amplified Heat kick ass when they just cut loose and fucking play.