One day Wilmington, North Carolina-based mega-stoners Weedeater will run out of cheeky, drug-based puns with which to name their records, but that day lies somewhere in the future, beyond the release of 2011's Jason the Dragon ("chasin' the dragon," get it?): their fourth studio opus in a decade's worth of vocal, guitar, bass, drums, and substance abuse. Oh, and don't forget physical abuse, because over the two years they spent touring, off and on, in support of 2007's God Luck and Good Speed, Weedeater's accident-prone musicians managed to tear themselves some knee ligaments (drummer Keith "Keko" Kirkum), break pinky fingers (bassist Dave Shepherd) and, best of all, blow off a few toes with a shotgun (vocalist/bassist "Dixie" Dave Collins)! All of which begs the question: does Southern Lord offer its acts health insurance? Whether they do or do not, fact is that the ailing trio still made it into Steve Albini's Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago just eight months behind schedule, and the resulting Jason the Dragon not surprisingly boasts the tightest, punchiest (errr, most Albini-esque) production of any Weedeater LP thus far.
Don't panic, now, the new material still comes familiarly slathered in the grimiest of guitar tones, fuzziest feedback, growliest bass, rowdiest drum work, not to mention Dixie's inimitable alligator croak, all of which wrestle for supremacy both on their trademark zombie marches ("Hammerhandle," "Turkey Warlock," "Long Gone," etc.) and occasional grinds in double time ( "Mancoon," "Homecoming," the title track). The only difference from earlier efforts is a clearer separation between all these sonic elements and instruments, without distancing the band from its authentically coarse Southern doom/sludge roots. And, since Weedeater can never resist including a few unorthodox surprises, "Palms of Opium" features Beelzebub on pedal steel (well, it sounds like Beelzebub; it sounds like pedal steel); "March of the Bipolar Bear" pretty much amounts to a brief drum solo (hence the title); and the album-closing "Whiskey Creek" amusingly sounds like a banjo taking a shower. Funny guys, Weedeater, and we're not just laughing at their various injuries, either, but rather Jason the Dragon's admirable musical merits, of course. That's entertainment.