Thursday, 4 October 2012

Beastwars - S/T LP (2011)

Been a while hasn't it? I've had this album for what seems like an age now, and I've been sitting on a review for quite some time; a combination of things (namely the lack of a functioning computer) have kept me from getting it out, so apologies for that.

Hailing from possibly as far as you can get from Claw Towers without starting to come back, Wellington, New Zealand's BEASTWARS have unleashed this leviathan from the midst of the Pacific Ocean, and what an album it is.

"Damn the Sky" starts off with a slightly misleading Broadrick-esque riff and muttered vocals from Matt Hyde which on first listen made me think for some reason of Brendan Perry fronting a guitar band, but that notion is soon blown away when he opens his lungs and bellows, a raging voice that could strip paint.
Bassist James Woods immediately makes his presence felt, fuzzed out scuzziness jostling against powerful drumming from Nathan Hickey to give a real sense of depth and movement.
When they strip the sound down to concentrate on the vocals, like on the track "Mihi",  you really get a sense of the bluesy delivery from Matt that is equal parts tortured sounding and really expressive.

I must - just for a second - talk about the packaging of the album here.  Sitting in my vintage 1960s swivel leather chair in the listening vault at Claw Towers and feeling to the riffs fall out of the speakers, whilst poring over the gatefold sleeve with it's depiction of a Lovecraftian  apocalypse on it adds something to the listening experience that just isn't possible with a CD or a download.
(the wax is lovely white and black marble too)

There's a real early nineties underground rock feel to a lot of the record, I hate to use the "G-word" because it conjures up far too many negative connotations for readers of this blog, but in a kind of fuck-the-mainstream way, not in any way you'd compare it to 90s MTV Rock. You'd be mad.

In places, like on "Call Out the Dead", the music is given room to breathe and a real sense of space and scale can be felt, with Matt bellowing "CALL OUT THE DEAAAD!!" over the top.
However, for me, the standout track is "Red God", where there is a bit of a - dare I say it - groove going on, and you tap your feet, nod your head, maybe break out the ol' air guitar! Good, sludge-tinged heavy metal that sits nicely against the melancholy feel of tracks like "Iron Wolf", and the brooding menace of "Cthulhu" which brings to mind a powerless ship, listing in the dark Pacific as hideous tentacles rush towards it from the deep.

The album closes with the storming "Empire", which contains all the components that make the album such an enjoyable listen in spades, with a cracking solo from riff meister Clayton Anderson.

In a nutshell: I can't decide if they sound like trawlermen or bikers.  This is the sound of a battle between road hogs and sea dogs.

Band Page:
Witch Hunter records still have copies of the vinyl here for my fellow Europeans, if you are in America give Grave Dancer Records a visit here.
If you must insist on buying a CD (You're missing out, believe me) then Europeans visit Ozium and everyone else visit SmokeCds

Buy or Die.

Here's a look at the wraparound art for the album:

And, if you needed any more convincing, a live performance for the track "Red God" on NZ television:

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