Full disclosure time: I originally wasn't planning on a particularly favorable review of the new album, Diary of a Traveling Salesman, from Seattle band Vindaloo. I listened to it a couple of times and wasn't impressed, but then I left town for a few days. When I got back, I gave it a spin, having forgotten all the songs, and as I sat down to begin writing, I was surprised to find it a better listen than I'd remembered.
There's a lot of rumbling on this set, sonically and lyrically. That works to lead singer Ben Harwood's advantage, as his impassioned tenor works in counterpoint to the ominous thrumming of the music, as in "Mocking," which evokes early Live before launching into a thrash-metal interlude. Harwood manages to sound like a number of different vocalists, from Lindsay Buckingham to Dave Mustaine, while maintaining his own style, which is fortunate, as Vindaloo displays an ambition in their music that a less capable vocalist wouldn't be able to match. From the soaring thrash ballad "Suffer For Now" to the blues-rumble riffs of "Professional," Vindaloo is after something more accomplished than your standard hard rock album.
This attention extends to the recording of the album. Despite its low-budget limitations, particularly noticeable in a tinny sound in the upper ranges, the total sound is clean and well-engineered. On my system, the bass thumped without overwhelming the guitar lines, and the vocals were out in front without being garbled, which was a refreshing change from other low-budget studio efforts I've listened to in the past. And, as a visual bonus, the album's liner art depicts a sumptuous-looking Indian meal that should go a long way to explaining why they named themselves Vindaloo (although a scratch-and-sniff version might have worked better). Overall, Vindaloo shows a lot of promise and the ability to fulfill it.