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Man's Gin: Sweetness Rubbed Raw

When metal guys go acoustic, it's a risky prospect. Distortion is often king, and if the songwriting isn't malleable enough to strip down, doomy power chords and guitar solos made for the mighty sustain get lost in translation. Given Erik Wunder's innovative instrumental work in the chaotic black-metal band Cobalt, it's hard to expect a successful transition.

But Wunder's solo project turned band, Man's Gin, maintains the tangible rawness of Cobalt and powers it through a ramshackle Dust Bowl Americana sound not often heard since the days of 16 Horsepower. Under well-worn strings, Wunder's acoustic guitar practically rusts under the weight of "Free." You don't have to squint hard to hear Alice in Chains, as early-'90s fuzz gets set to a pummeled mountain beat. Wunder even has a little of that Eddie Vedder jaw-wired-shut syndrome that plagued much of the '90s. Still, when he opens his voice, there's a certain rough sweetness even as he damns everything around him.

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