Posts Tagged ‘Hey Colossus’

16th April 2018 – Riot Season Records

Christopher Nosnibor

For the love, not the money, Every time. I fell out of the loop, and missed out on the promo and wasn’t even aware that one of my favourite active bands had a new album out. And that’s reason to write about it. I feel I somehow owe the band for all of the killer music so far, and owe it to myself for posterity. So, I’m playing catch-up here with the Hey Colossus offshoot, and immediately, what strikes is the grit of the guitar and the murky production that renders The Making of Junio Bonner possibly their grimiest effort to date.

It’s the combination of spindly lead guitar lines that loop over the bowel-bothering bass frequencies before dissolving into overdriven sludge, coupled with the cool-as-fuck drawling vocals that does it. And yes, it’s pure 90s grunge, with big nods to Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, but with the dingy, greasy, rough-hewn raggedness of Tad. Do I like Henry Blacker for being an allusive throwback? Inevitably, grunge is in my DNA having immersed myself in all the bands of the day in my mid-late teens in the mid-late 90s. But no: Henry Blacker don’t evoke nostalgia. However much their template may be of an era, their music is timeless. Because good music is.

Initial spins don’t reveal any instant grabs like ‘Pullin’ Like a Dray’, ‘Cold Laking’, or ‘The Grain’, but then again, it’s time spent with Henry Blacker that allows the growers to emerge: over time, their previous two albums have proved themselves to be solid gold, albeit caked in mud and shit. And perhaps the lack of standouts is an indicator of its absolute consistency: all the songs are equal, and all are equally solid. And solid is the word. The back-to-back dispatching of songs centred around cyclical grooves and relentless riffery places it in the same space occupied by Nirvana’s debut. It grafts and grinds, hawks and chisels away, snarling, spitting, raging.

‘Shingles to the Floor’ is almost an accessible rock tune when you wipe it down. The classic rock intro on ‘Cellmate’ gives way to a panelling, thick, grungy riff that hits that sweet spot of optimum density, where the guitars fill the speakers with a distortion that threatens to overload them with a fuzz that sounds like tearing cardboard while the bass isn’t something you hear but feel. The mangled vocals, half buried, are the perfect addition.

‘Keep it Out of Your Heart’ locks into a thick, stoner groove that Queens of the Stone Age would likely kill to replicate these days. It has a certain overloaded smoothness and a swagger that chugs and chunks as it drives onwards. And maybe it’s one of those tracks that grows as a standout after just a few plays after all…

The density of sound, the way the riffs churn in on themselves and repeat as they snarl and grate, all combine to build a claustrophobic intensity. There’s no room to breathe here, and there’s no slow-tempo lighter-waving anthem at the end of side one: it’s truly end-to-end in conception and delivery.

AA

Henry Blacker

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MIE – 2nd December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

 

I was pretty late to the party with Hey Colossus, being introduced by way of their seventh album, 2011’s mighty RRR. In my review at the time, I commented on the album’s diversity, noting that ‘“Teased from the Nest” drifts like a zephyr in the Colorado Desert, and “The Drang” crunches, bucks and grunts, laden with sludgy guitars with an extra layer of treble squall. It’s a fair sumary of the band’s divergent styles, and  both of those cuts feature on this fourteen-track retrospective (that’s one more track than the original cassette release in 2013, of which some  copies exist).

The press release sets the scene, and to quote seems instructive here: “In 2015 Hey Colossus released two albums on Rocket Recordings, In Black and Gold in February and Radio Static High in October. Dedicated to Uri Klangers is a look back. It’s best summed up by the 3000 words that can be found on the inner sleeve of the record, the tale begins: “The 2xLP comp that’s in your hands now was initially released on cassette by S.O.U.L for our 10th anniversary show, September 2013, about 50 tapes were made and sold on the night. We thought a BEST OF would be hilarious. We were average at that show and I’m being generous. I’d give us 5.5/10. A shame. Hacker Farm and Helm also played. It was at The Sebright Arms in London, somewhere out East…..”

This encapsulates the band’s self-effacing an anti-commercialist position perfectly. They’re outsiders, largely by choice, and that’s precisely why they’re so great. That, and the fact they’ve got some belting tunes, if you like it loud and abrasive, that is.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Hey Colossus make a serious racket, and they get right down to it on this ‘first ten years’ compilation, which draws from their myriad releases which have appeared on a host of different labels (although Riot Season and Rocket have been particularly kind). The throbbing, squalling racket of ‘War Crows’ from 2008’s Happy Birthday starts it all off. It’s an uncompromising, trebly din. ‘How to Tell the Time with Jesus’ showcases the diametric opposite side of the band: a ten-minute avant-Krautrock epic built around a looping bassline and motoric drum, it’s a droning psychedelic behemoth. It’s the first of four tracks which extend past the ten-minute mark, in contrast to explosive blasts like ‘I Am the Chiswich Strangler’, which clock in at under two, but more than compensate in blistering intensity and pace.

Following on from ‘How to Tell the Time’, ‘The Drang’ also brings the contrast. I’d forgotten just how fucking raw it was, how unproduced, what a monstrous mess of feedback and sludge. There’s a song in here? Some semblance of a rhythm? Chords?

The churning sprawl of ‘Eurogrumble PTII’ from Dominant Male (2010) draws together their squalling noise tendencies with their experimental and Krautrock leanings to produce a headsplitting kaleidoscope of feedback, and ‘Drug Widow’ is just one of the nastiest, noisiest, grungiest grinds you’re likely to hear: like Tad only heavier, sweatier, grimier and gnarlier, it’s a raging beast of a track.

‘Hot Grave’ is another chug-heavy heft of grunge rock with some bizarre twists, and is one of the tracks which perhaps gives the best indication of the birth of Hey Colossus offshoot band Henry Blacker, not least of all on account of the mangled vocals.

‘Witchfinder General Hospital’ sits alongside ‘Pope Long Haul III’ for That Fucking Tank-like wordplay titles, and this fifteen-minute behemoth is the album’s motoric centrepiece, and if acts like Hookworms spring to mind by way of a comparson, then fair enough, although a collision of Hawkwind and Dr Mix is perhaps closer to the mark when referencing this thumping monster on which squealing analogue synths shriek over something approximating The Sisters of Mercy covering ‘Sister Ray’ circa 1983.

‘Wait Your Turn’ is a doomy, sludgy, and pretty scary-sounding black metal mess: when Hey Colossus get dark, they go seriously fucking dark. This is, of course, one of the reason they’ve remained a very much underground / cult proposition: they refuse to confirm to any one style, and they’re often given to making the most unpalatably dark noise, without any concession to prettying up the sound for the benefit of a potentially wider audience.

In attempting to research the chronology nd the origins of the individual tracks, I found myself foundering, and again the press release explains why: “Included are one or two tunes from all the HC albums released 2003-2013, it also includes the Witchfinder General Hospital track (only 100 pressed on 12”). All vinyl versions of the albums from this era are long gone. The discography is a bit of a mess now, the band doesn’t fully know and the Discogs site is not much help – godspeed anyone trying to buy all the back cat.

And as much as Dedicated to Uri Klangers may be a prompt to explore the back catalogue in more detail – and righty so – it’s also a perfect summation of their output to this point. Challenging yet rewarding and as noisy as fuck, it’s niche alright, but it’s also a document of everything a cult band should be.

 

Hey Colossus - Dedicated_to_Uri_Klangers_Front_Cover