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Album Review: TBA

Monday, June 20, 2011

Album Review: Steak Number Eight - All Is Chaos

Steak Number Eight may be a Belgian post-rock band who sound like they're something you'd order off a meat-lover's menu but, having an average age of 18, they're also a band that would struggle to order a beer in a bar. It's probably this fact that will make you sit up and take notice rather than any other. Although these are all pretty impressive facts, your eyebrows won't raise any higher when you learn that they've supported Deftones, Torche and Pelican, nor the fact they've played Graspop, won their country's most famous rock competition, or that the legendary Matt Bayles (Isis, Neurosis, Mastodon) has mixed this sophomore album of theirs. Yes, there is a serious amount of teenage angst being laid down here. Trust me, you'll know it when they're aiming it at you.

From an introductory squall of feedback they proceed to adeptly lay down some of the heaviest, pounding rhythms I think I've ever heard. The drums and crunched guitars are like solid concrete - the gormlessly-monikered 'Dickhead' is the sonic equivalent of experiencing a bombardment of hailstones the size of baseballs. You'll find yourself ducking as each sludgy beat batters into the side of your head. There's a punkish, unhinged edge to 'Pyromaniac' where vocalist/guitarist Brent Vanneste digs out an electronically-twisted, frazzled squawk that sits somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Scott Kelly. And yet this isn't where Steak Number Eight like to idle too often.

From here, you'll recognise the shift into cleans and complex structures that mark out their more well-known progressive side. Vanneste conjures up this fantastical, distant vocal that just echoes on and on sounding like something out of the 90's Madchester scene - think Oceansize's Mike Vennart and you'll be in the ballpark. The music behind wanders somewhere between the dreamily psychedelic bent of that particular band but tacked onto the dirtier, pistoning rock slant of Pelican. The tone is very much darker than either of these though - it's almost menacing. The 9-minute 'Track Into The Sky', for instance, gets all Isis on us for a moment as the vocal roars bloody murder and the cleans chunk up before dropping out to reveal a brewing storm beneath a clunky, cyclical riff that will plink away until it annoys the hell out of you - especially when the following 'Trapped' just apes the same pattern. Opposing that 'The Calling' is almost pop-rock in its simplistic construction and transparent time signature, and the insanely lengthy 'Drowning In Your Blood' is just absolute batshit mental - things get awful messy as it tries to head in four directions at once.

All this negativity and then it all slots into place for the stunning instrumental 'Man vs. Man' and the blindingly barren 'Stargazing', which both score deep marks in the sand and dare you to walk over them. The riffs are oblique enough to dig their claws in and the guitars grind away, then simply flip over and chime. It's all very perplexing. The meshing together of tracks just falls apart under scrutiny. Their colossal opening salvo gives us a vicious scowl and yet peels away to reveal this confusingly beatific, oddly fake countenance. Having said that though, this is very much a young band with already a vast abundance of skill and a firm grasp on each concept they're attempting to pull off. They're not a million miles away from nailing it, but at the moment 'All Is Chaos' is, unsurprisingly, just too chaotic for it's own good.

Also online @ MTUK =
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