Whether out of laziness or dogmatism, many bands adhere to a formulaic writing scheme. Prior to Jaggernaut, Scissorfight could have easily been treasurer of this uninventive group. Nearly every Scissorfight song would follow the same basic pattern: after beginning with some sort of mildly interesting riff, the verses were backed by some unintelligible drop-D chugga chugga. Then, after a brief reprisal of the nuclear riff, a succinct stadium-rock chorus would appear, and the process would start again. Guitar solos rarely made an appearance and the band’s albums could be confused for one monotonous opus. Although the same compositional rubric may remain on Jaggernaut, Scissorfight has become infinitely more adventurous, which has simultaneously excited and disappointed many.
Lyrically, Scissorfight songs have always read like a Hell’s Angels manifesto; a “don’t tread on me” spirit fights for airtime with tongue-in-cheek humor and vulgarity. With songs like “Just Head” and “Outmotherfucker the Man” (both from 1999’s Piscataqua), these New England natives have flown their freak flag high while insisting that the nearly omnipresent “man” doesn’t kill their buzz or take their broads. Jaggernaut is inarguably more diverse in the guitar, bass and drum departments, but the band members seem content to reuse the same lyrical fodder as their previous releases. With lyrics like “blast from the past/ the governor of Mass can fuckin’ kiss my ass” (“Victory Over Horseshit”), we don’t have to wonder if Scissorfight has lost its shit-kicking attitude.
Although his lyrics may be similar, vocalist Ironlung’s delivery has become much more varied. As he strays from his classic guttural growl and spoken-word elocutions, Ironlung, dare I say it, sings on this record. This has mixed results. The thin, processed vocals on “Mange” make for Ironlung’s weakest performance to date and make his name an outright misnomer. “The Dredge’s” long-winded choruses fare much better.
As for Jaggernaut‘s ambitious instrumentals, Scissorfight’s guitarists have apparently discovered an entirely new aural palette with which to create. “86 Sucker” boogies like Bon Scott-era AC/DC, while “Funhouse Skull” gallops with the Unsane-like ferocity. For the first time ever, the band members relinquish their electrics for the verses of bluegrass-infused “Appalachian Chain.” (Fear not: The choruses sport classic Scissorfight riffing.)
Jaggernaut signals Scissorfight’s inevitable maturation. No longer concerned with anthemic choruses and lyrical tomfoolery, the New Englanders have begun diversifying their assets among the group. But this daring has made for a more diverse, albeit less impressive, album. Jaggernaut might be best considered separately from the rest of Scissorfight’s catalog, because compared to the band’s earlier triumphs, it’s a little disappointing.