Thursday, 27 December 2012
The Quartet of Woah! - Ultrabomb (album review)
The Quartet of Woah! do indeed impress, as their name implies, on their debut album. 13 songs, 60 minutes long, each song makes a unique musical statement. They live alone on a tiny island just outside of Stoner Rock, unfettered by laws or conventions, free to do as they wilt, creating something unique and different.
The Quartet of Woah! show tremendous ability to handle melody and harmony while showing a broad range of influences and sounds from fuzz so heavy it could only have been dredged from the deepest and blackest of ocean trenches to harmonies so light and delicate they might have more properly fallen on mountain tops than on record. There are moments of Yes-style close harmony, Queen-style operatic aria, John Lennon-style piano crooning and Truckfighters-style fuzz battery, just to name but a few of their musical stylings.
Opening cut "Master Lever Had a Dream" is a skull and crossbones warning to any who aren't ready. Awash in harmony and Animals-style organ, while still maintaining a hard edged silhouette as did the best of the 60s psychedelic pop bands. It's as fine and as honest an opening shot across the bow as one would hope to find. The title track then continues the trend into 60s pop psych lightness with a piano and vocal melody that would make Jeff Lynne beam with pride, especially in his earlier Idle Race incarnation. Not what one might expect, to be sure. It all paves the way for "Taste of Hate", a downtuned potboiler of heavy fuzz and pounding rhythm, the contrast between these two sides of the band lending the latter track all the more impact. "The Announcer" then glides in sounding sugary in comparison, though not as sugary as the opening two tracks. By the end of the song however, it's actually a great blend of the two sides of the band; the sugary 60s psych pop side and the fuzzy stoner side. The two together create nearly a Wolf Parade kind of atmosphere.
Now that we've gotten to know The Quartet of Woah! it leaves little left in the way of surprise for the rest of the album, right? "How To Build a Bomb?" is mostly an instrumental with a group shout that wafts in and out atop an uptempo fuzz rock and Doors-ish organ freakout. Now that was different. "Prodigal Son" begins with some Yes-style harmony and spills out into a syncopated downtempo platter of pounding rhythms. "Empty Stream" is a short organ and fuzz rock headbanger which leads to the piano driven Lennon / Nilsson crooning intro of "The Path of Our Commitment". The song then leads to an understated fuzz rock verse and chorus and seemingly burns itself out only to be reborn in a Queen style resurrection of piano and epic vocals. The full band then comes back and kicks into fuzz monster mode. It's one of the longer tracks (one of two over seven minutes) but it's an impressive display of what the band is capable of as a whole.
The next three have a lot in common and show the first signs that the band has settled into an identity that is both comfortable and individualized; that of organ driven fuzz rock with syncopated rhythms. "Ode to Liberty" is a fuzz and organ driven rocker. "Balance" has a nearly Jimi Hendrix like opening riff that leads to another Yes / Queen style harmony over a simplified carnival-like syncopated organ driven rhythm. "Slingshot Sam" scratches out a complex organ and fuzz driven rhythm. The album tops off in grand style with a pair of epic songs. In "The Machine Limps Toward The End" the band is content to let the organ swell away in the background and let the vocals do the talking, so to speak. Closing track "U Turn" is not only the longest song it may be the most representative of the band on an album full of interesting songs. It's organ driven fuzz rock with an interesting syncopated rhythm. If the listener remains unconvinced after previewing this song, chances are he won't be convinced by the rest of the album. But I'm willing to bet there's a little something here for everyone.
Highlights include: "Taste of Hate" and "Ultrabomb"
Total Run Time: 1:00:30
From: Lisbon, Portugal
Genre: Rock, Stoner Rock, Fuzz Rock, Progressive Rock
Reminds me of: Electric Light Orchestra, John Lennon, Queen, Truckfighters
Release Date: November 25, 2012
Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Storm the sand blasted walls of the Martian king's desert palace.