Home Read Albums Of The Week: Carbellion | Weapons Of Choice

Albums Of The Week: Carbellion | Weapons Of Choice

The Wisconsin heavweights come out swinging & pull no punches on their third LP, hitting you right between the eyes with massively muscular, riff-fuelled barnburners.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Heavy rock ’n’ roll is born of something you can’t put into words. It’s the greasy dirt found under a mechanic’s fingernails as they finish the last car of the day, and the sweat-stained shirt stuck to a blue-collar worker’s back as they grind through their third consecutive 12-hour shift. It’s the feeling of tearing down an open road late at night with the song that make you feel truly free, while the person you love rides shotgun. Rock ’n’ roll is a sensation we both chase and earn, and it’s those living life caught in the in-between that Carbellion seek to reach through their music.

Formed in Southeastern Wisconsin in 2004 with the idea they were better together than apart, the men of Carbellion have been forging an original path in music since Day 1. The members — Brandon Bauer (guitar), Cameron Kellenberger (vocals), Brent Nimz (drums), Jamie Damrow (lead guitar) and Steve Sheppard (bass guitar) — fuse elements of grunge, thrash and stoner-rock with more traditional structures to deliver driving anthems of lives lived on the outer rim of society. Their sound follows in the tradition of forward-thinking groups like Clutch and Alice In Chains, but with hooks and melodies ready for radio.

“We always tell people we make rock music,” explains Kellenberger, “but that always leads to more questions. It’s not exactly metal, but it’s not radio rock. We tune down, and we have an edgier sound, but my vocals are mostly clean. It’s nothing like what you heard in the ’80s or ’90s, and there’s not a lot like us around today. We appreciate comparisons, but we pride ourselves on being original.”

The group self-released their first EP, American Heavy Rock, in 2005. That material got the band on the road and was followed in 2006 by Villains, their first full-length. 2009 brought a split EP with Outshine, followed later that same year by their second album The Horse. Four years would pass before 2013’s Headliner EP, and then another five before 2019’s In Due Time EP.

Weapons Of Choice, Carbellion’s third album, pulls from nearly 20 years of experience and lessons learned by fire to deliver the group’s most compelling release to date. The 10-song collection brings together the band’s strongest and most cohesive material so far, though its inception was rather unusual. “We started the record before COVID,” says Kellenberger. “The pandemic made us stop temporarily, but we found a way to work together digitally during that time. That allowed us to write the record, which we took to the studio as material was finished, so some songs were recorded two years before others, but it was a constant creation process.”

Weapons Of Choice also marks the debut of Nimz, who also contributes to the songwriting.“While we’re definitely not a punk band, Brent and I share a love of punk rock,” Kellenberger explains. “That really comes out on this record with songs like Bar Fight and Pity The Backseat, the latter of which Brent actually wrote. There’s more of a rock ’n’ roll edge to the material, but it’s still really heavy, and I think from the last EP to now, that influence is one of the biggest differences. It’s made a BIG impact on our sound.”

Lyrically, Weapons Of Choice finds Carbellion working to engage its audience. “I want to make people think,” Kellenberger states. We’ve never been great at writing straightforward songs. Translating the thoughts and ideas in my head is a complicated process, but an exciting one. These songs are definitely fun and we write them with the intention of making people have a good time, especially with the live show, but this record more than any other also aims to make people think. Don’t take everything at face value. Nothing in this life is black and white. The truth is almost always somewhere in the middle.”

With the album complete, Carbellion are taking stock of their place in the rock ecosystem. After nearly two decades and half a dozen releases, the Wisconsin bad boys feel they are just now hitting their stride. “I don’t feel that we have a throwaway song,” says Kellenberger. “Not every song is right for every person, but we’ve worked hard to ensure every song that makes the record deserves to be there. Our goal is to get our music out there, and to get more people listening to it. We’re career guys with normal jobs and kids and lives we wouldn’t walk away from, but there are a lot of opportunities we want to pursue. We want to tour Europe and play big festivals. Not necessarily more shows, but bigger ones, and this record feels like it has the material to get us there.”