Within the first two minutes of Josh Krajcik Band's "Atavistic," it's clear that Krajcik wasn't kidding when he called his sophomore set "more intense."
"You know that you will die!" Krajcik roars in all his husky fervor. "You know that you will die by yourself, all alone!"
Leadoff track "Pariah" begins a journey into anger and anxiety that might throw you for a loop if you're expecting a paint-by-numbers approach to blues rock.
Don't get it twisted: Krajcik's music is populist in the truest sense. His marathon sets include Beatles covers and 12-bar blues. His first gig with bassist Mitch Pinkston and drummer Corey Gillen back in 2005 comprised almost entirely blues standards.
But for all Krajcik's mainstream appeal, "Atavistic" is a brutal listen, the product of a more aggressive band than the one that debuted with the ballad-heavy "Ghosts" in 2005.
"Before it was like I was purging this kind of dark sadness," Krajcik said. "Now it's like I'm purging this sort of dark anger."
Perhaps Krajcik is mad about waiting five years between albums. In the interim, Josh Krajcik Band toured as the backing band for Krajcik's friend Gran Bel Fisher, who'll play the "Atavistic" release party Friday at Victory's along with The Razers.
Backing Fisher took them to Bonnaroo, "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and beyond. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but the lengthy haul left Krajcik exhausted and unsettled.
"I wanted to take this anxious feeling I had from the tour, and from expectations, getting older, and flesh it out a little," Krajcik said.
The wait also stemmed from taking closer care of these recordings. "Ghosts" came out months after the band formed. Krajcik sometimes wishes they would have spent a little longer refining it.
"I didn't want to have that feeling with this one," Krajcik said. "I wanted to make sure I had it right."