Success is a funny thing, especially for musicians, in that it often signals a fat paycheck but comes with a set of constricting expectations. J Mascis, one of the unlikeliest video stars of the 120 Minutes era, made his biggest imprint as the guitar-weilding frontman of Dinosaur Jr., parlaying hooks and clever visuals into the white whale of alternative musicians: mainstream visibility. But he actually started his career as a drummer, for hardcore bands Deep Wound and Upside Down Cross.
There are many worse things to be than an established icon, and Mascis, as indicated by his frequent returns to the band, doesn’t seem tired of the role. That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s immune to wondering what might have been had his career taken a slightly different path. On Paralyzed, the second album from Witch, Mascis returns to drumming and delivers an energetic set free of the expectations of his established stardom.
These songs are standard-issue doom metal, but there is an undeniable pleasure in hearing Mascis assault the drums with a primal fury absent from his technically perfect guitar playing. His playing, combined with the steady grooves of bassist Dave Sweetapple, is often front and center. This is partly owing to the bottom-heavy genre, but Mascis is musician of undeniable gifts, and Witch is unquestionably his band. With Paralyzed, Mascis gives us another reason not to write him off as solely a rock guitarist.