Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.


Some CDs should come with warning labels like medication--"Do not operate heavy machinery or motor vehicles while under the influence of this recording." Yanni would put you to sleep at the wheel, Dishwalla would annoy you to the point of road rage, and Keelhaul's self-titled debut would cause you to speed recklessly and mow down pedestrians.

Featuring bassist/vocalist Aaron Dallison, guitarist Dana Embrose, drummer Will Scharf, and guitarist/vocalist Chris Smith, Keelhaul provides an all-out aural assault. Someone needs to redefine the word "instrumental" to describe most of the tracks on the album. "Instrumental" implies something gentle, something harmless--not Keelhaul's "Tuco" or "Khimer," which sound like the instruments are being attacked until they're destroyed.

The vocals are just as aggressive as the drums, bass, and guitars in tracks like "3x3 Eyes" and "Cleanser"--like Pantera's Phil Anselmo on a strict diet of two packs of cigarettes and a bottle of bourbon a day. Lyrics are indistinguishable in both of the songs, amid all the growling and sputtering. For all you'd know, the tracks could be about how the band members like to make daisy garlands for their heads while watching the setting sun.

Or maybe not. "Unleaded" includes the lyrical turn, Smoke a bowl/Burn a hole in the couch/Slept with my head in the john. No wonder they're so angry. This band needs a hug.

If neuroses had a soundtrack, "Enervate" would definitely make the cut, with its aggressive guitars and slinky bass line. In this way, Keelhaul is set apart from many other hardcore bands--the band's members know how to play their instruments, so there's a trace of melody in each song. The last track, "ESP," has an introduction that's almost pretty against the previous attack of screeching, grating feedback and distortion in "Leveling Mechanism." But don't be fooled. "ESP" soon gets heavier, then slows down again. It's like a cool-down in mid-workout--it lets you relax momentarily and get your heart rate back to normal. But make no mistake: Keelhaul is not for the weak of heart.

--Josie Rubio

Cambodia Records
16013 Waterloo Rd., Suite 405
Cleveland, OH 44110

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 5, 2022

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • Open Turntable Tuesday @ The Winchester

    • Tuesdays
  • Kiry Shabazz @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Thu., Jan. 27
  • Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood @ Packard Music Hall

    • Thu., Jan. 27

© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation