Chrome Hoof - Crush Depth
Southern Records
Alt. metal/fusion/prog-disco
13 songs (59:01)
Release year: 2010
Official Myspace
Reviewed by Charles
Album of the month
Listening to this excellent album, the freewheeling adventurism and eccentric fripperies that characterised Cathedral’s The Guessing Game suddenly become a lot less surprising. Chrome Hoof is a ten-person project, co-founded by Leo Smee. Ten members, roughly corresponding to the number of different musical idioms that all seem to fall neatly into place on any given tune here. Fusion, disco, alternative metal, electronic, post-punk… This isn’t so much a Mr. Bungle style pastiche, alternating frenetically from one thing to another, as a collection of surprisingly cohesive songs; each is a colourful blend of ideas, instruments (woodwind and strings feature alongside an arsenal of electronic noisemaking equipment) and idioms that (almost) never loses sight of the hooks upon which each is based.

On a superficial level it’s very difficult to give a good overall description of what this sounds like. The one real unmistakeable trademark is Lola Olafisoye’s lead vocals, maybe a bit like (though this is the kind of oafish comparison I usually try to steer clear of) a female Mike Patton, in that she swoops acrobatically around angular and unpredictable melodic and rhythmic lines, and has a volatile delivery that alternates between sweetness and Polly Styrene-like spitting. There are several highlights, from the strutting Prodigy meets Flight of the Conchords electro-funk instrumental of Vapourise to the sci-fi effects-laden stoner riffing of Third Sun Descendent.

So rather than talk in generalities maybe it’s best to look at a couple of highpoints in detail. Sea Hornet opens with the kind of African percussion mood music that makes you feel like you should be watching a video montage of a meerkat tribe. A Primus-aping bass line jumps in and vivid, almost gaudy synths as well, turning this suddenly into an alarming jazz fusion behemoth that makes me think of The Mars Volta’s Viscera Eyes. Especially so when it starts to alternate with a twinklingly Bitches Brew-lite solo section, in which there are turns from a saxophone, a violin, and a Herbie Hancock tribute on the electric piano… it’s a bit like listening to a bonsai Mahavishnu Orchestra. Then take Crystalline. Starting with a jilting electronic dance intro, the crunching riffing that forms the main bulk of the song is alternately delivered by string-section-with-oboe and a more standard alt. metal cronk. Cackling vocals and offbeat melodies give this a real sense of edgy musical drama. This is a pop song going through a deeply traumatic childhood remembrance.

Though this may well give you the impression of a set of unrelated twists and turns, there are undoubtedly unifying factors here. For one thing, these tunes are nearly always- catchy isn’t the right word- accessible and immediate. While the songs are obviously diverse, they are often in similarly energetic, danceable tempos. The unconventionality of their grooves’ time signatures and instrumentation is often swept aside by their infectiousness. There are exceptions, of course. The ever-shifting epic Witches Instruments and Furnaces drifts restlessly, its haunted synths and cathartic wailing string at times reminiscent of one of Goblin’s more out-there soundtracks (or Black Sabbath as they were on Supertzar. But even here things pick up regularly into passages of gleaming energy, like the squelching hipster techno that kicks up a fuss around the three minute mark. In other words, Crush Depth manages the rare achievement of tying a relentless experimental streak and glorious eclecticism into an intensely enjoyable listening experience.

Killing Songs :
Sea Hornet, One Day, Witches Instruments and Furnaces
Charles quoted 92 / 100
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