Here is a band that sound as if they come from about as far away from their base as is humanly possible. Rather than the clanking industrial history, the grey skies and steep hills of Sheffield, putting this CD on transports to you to areas like the deserts, and sunshine, perhaps, of California. The land that brought us the likes of Neurosis, Tool and Queens of The Stone Age – three bands whose influence looms large on this album.
Opener Persius is the first to take us there, with the bone-dry guitars and rasping vocals providing metallic peak after another, stretching into well-over seven minutes of intelligently constructed rock. Scenario starts with a great, ringing riff, that provides the deep bedrock for the track to twist and turn like a captured snake, with a slow, lolloping melody provided by the guitar in the main, with the vocals following it (rather than the other way round). And even though the track snaps into more than one thrashy section, the band are not afraid to implant a tune – what might be deemed some colour, to keep it from sounding too one-dimensional.
The calmer intro of Ten Fifty takes us, to the sound of lying by the sea, before a colossal riff whips up a storm and forces you to take cover, as huge, echoing tribal-like drums join the guitar riffs in an assault on the senses. The epic If Lockheeds Could Speak again twists through many different sections, but keeping the same, sludgy feel. Where in lesser hands this may begin to appear boring, the high level of musical ability, and the astonishly tight band, help to keep things moving well, to the point that you barely notice that the first four songs take up no less than 30 minutes!
Talking of variety, Let Them Stay Behind provides that in spades. In a total change of direction, the understated instrumentation, and the nerve-wracked vocals bring to mind The Cure in their darkest phases, before it erupts into another well-timed riff-fest, and finally, gently, descends back to how it started. Oddly, these calm moments are among the finest on the album, in a manner of showing just what this band is capable of beyond their initial sound and appearance.
The power doesn’t let up, either – The Thinking Tree‘s odd, jerking beat gradually mutates through different time signatures, before descending again to a gorgeously starlit middle section, and then a totally different ending, but again based around that jerking beat. A searing squall of guitar heralds the arrival of the curious The Ballad of John Madden, an apparent shout out to the idea of whiling away the hours watching distant American Football on the TV. It is a very short track by this album’s long standards, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome – musically it is something of a mishmash of ideas that doesn’t really hold together until the closing seconds.
Her Tides Bear No Compassion takes us back to the seashore, for a mellow instrumental with the waves lapping against the edges of the track, and at this point it perhaps feels as if the album has run out of steam. It hasn’t of course – there is still the ability to push forward, using the minimal riff of that instrumental in a fleshed out form on closer Black Dawn, it being notable also for being one of the few tracks where the lyrics are clearly audible. In the main, the lyrics here are not the focus – rather the music is.
So after a good few years of touring some of these material in the ground, a very good album has resulted. Clearly this touring has enabled ideas to be refined, rough edges to be sharpened, and to provide a familiar base for people to start with.
While the various influences do quite clearly make themselves known, the band do also have a sound of their own, that they have created well from the disparate parts. And now they have the backing of a forward-looking label, hopefully they will be able to indulge some of the more interesting ideas that are present here fleetingly a little more in future.