Saturday 9 March 2013

Humanfly - Awesome Science (Album Review)

Image of Humanfly - Awesome Science Double Gatefold Vinyl

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 11/2/2013
Label : Brew
Awesone Science, tracklisting:
1) Golden Arrows 8:33
2) A Majestic Story 6:12
3) The Apple That Never Fell 9:00
4) Poetry of Light 4:58
5) The Armour of Science 14:48
6) Frozen in Time, Billions of Light Years Away 6:36
As a band that has been in existence for close to 12 years now, Humanfly are somewhat of an institution in the UK. As purveyors of the mighty ‘riff’ they are without doubt one of the best.
2010’s ‘Darker Later’ was highly praised by the likes of Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, The Quietus and Terrorizer for its monumentally crushing riffs and immensely dark atmospherics. So much so that Dan Carter’s ears sharply pricked up and he brought them down to Maida Vale to record a live session for his BBC Rock Show.

The band managed to then earn a spot on the Scuzz sponsored Earthone9 tour alongside Maybeshewill and The Ocean. In late 2011 they opened Damnation Festival to a packed out room before stepping back to begin work on their next album.

Humanfly’s previous 3 albums saw them gradually edge away from their original fast, hardcore,DIY punk sound through to post-metal, now taking them to their current form which in the case of new album ‘Awesome Science’ is a massive prog beast.
There’s been a shift in dynamics which may come as a surprise to many who were used to the ‘quiet, loud, even louder’ formula that worked so well. ‘Awesome Science’ is very much and in every sense, shape and form a prog album.

Humanfly have crafted an astonishing record that moves, shifts and at certain moments elevates the listener leaving them gobsmacked by the sheer musicianship on display. Think King Crimson meets The Mars Volta and you are almost there.


John Sutcliffe - Vocals/Guitar
Andy Sutcliffe - Guitar
Mat Dale - Bass
Dave Jones - Drums


Progressive rock and roll has gone through many phases, from the acid rock of the 60’s,
The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” to early 70’s prog like Genesis or Yes, all the way up to
metal infused acts like Dream Theater and The Mars Volta. But there is a new
progressive rock, a style more in touch with indie and post-punk. It seems the genre has
blended all sub-genres together to form something fresh and current, yet still
incorporating the typical elements, whether it be odd time signatures or experimenting
with unusual chords changes. If progressive rock is synonymous with futuristic,
Humanfly fall into that category.

Humanfly’s newest release- “Awesome Science” makes a striking impression on the first
listen. It’s the fourth album by this Leeds, UK quartet and their best by every standard.

The opening track- “Golden Arrows” sets a dark mood, with rainy day vocals washing
over post-rock guitar lines akin to the early emo-core of Sunny Day Real Estate. The
music evolves rhythmically into more complicated patterns while an overall feeling of
growth in energy occurs. The rhythm section is tight, fine-tuned and marching through
prog parts mid-way through the song. There are some bad ass wah wah guitar licks that
lead into riffs similar to Robert Fripp’s work in King Crimson. This is an all-out guitar
sampler of an opening, covering different sounds, tones and dynamics. A solid eight and
a half minute track begins the journey.

“A Majestic Story” continues with a soft beginning, ambient guitar soundscapes before
opening up. The band holds tight control over these segments, when you think you’ve
settled in on a part, it changes!  Humanfly never fails to supply the unexpected, taking
you to a whole other vibe when you least expect it. This track is one of the more guitar
heavy ‘sound effect’ songs. There seems to be a whammy pedal in use, as well as long
riff lines you’d hear off a Coheed & Cambria record, but grittier and sludgy, particularly
towards the end, where it sounds like mid-70‘s Black Sabbath.

The LP continues, as if the songs are all connected. “The Apple that Never Fell” begins
strong, making its way into science-fiction rock as the guitars sound like moogs and the
drums gradually get louder and rapid. At this point in the record, it does feel like a
concept album of sorts. I get the notion that maybe these songs aren’t supposed to be
listened to on their own and is part of something bigger. The band becomes more of
an instrumental group, running through changes like a true prog band before the vocals
come in. It’s an interesting fusion of gothic-esque vocal melodies mixed in. This is
perhaps their most signature trait, the odd combination of this style of vocals over
progressive beats. It separates them from the typical Rush inspired prog band.

“Poetry of Light” has a jazzy drum intro, reminiscent of the legendary Bill Ward. Busy
and quick thinking is how the drummer acts. This is a departure from the album’s aura,
experimenting with more psychedelic rhythm patterns as the compositions grow more
sporadic. This band has a knack for controlled dynamics, never staying on one for too
long. Whenever it feels predictable, a drastic change happens, like the segue way from
this into “The Armour of Science”, which sounds like Dio’s Black Sabbath. A more
straight ahead hard rocker is suiting at this stage of the record, but a fifteen minute epic
is what it becomes.

This is where the band proves their experience and chops. There is a lot of interplay between different time changes, polyrhythmic motifs are prominent justas King Crimson jammed like in their heyday. I get the feeling the guitarists are heavily influenced by Robert Fripp and I find this cooler than most contemporary bands that go for the Crimson sound. It’s a bit more metal, thicker than most and raw. That’s a major element of this band that I like, it’s not identically composed and performed. You can tell there is a jam-out aspect to the music that most new bands of this ilk won’t go for. Especially in this track, there are guitar solos around ten minutes in that are more like The Jimi Hendrix Experience than neo-prog.

After climaxing through the previous cut, a breath of fresh air comes with “Frozen in
Time...”, the album closer. Trying to out-rock the last track would be impossible, so they
move diagonal, ending with textures and atmospherics rather than a ‘song’. It’s
under watery back beat is subtle. There is an unfinished feeling here, trippier than most
of the record, almost like Pink Floyd on steroids. The end comes crashing, loud again
and in your face abruptly, leaving the listener with that longing for more.

This is a clear and concise full length record by an ever developing band. Humanfly is
for the open-minded, musician's music, and even the stoners that appreciate something
different over a catchy melody and verse/chorus song structure. If you’re a fan of classic
rock, prog, but you’re looking for something with newer ideas to offer, this is the album
for you. It’s also highly impressive music to play, if you’re a musician, you will find
interesting ideas here and there that’ll boggle your mind.

Humanfly might not be for everyone, an acquired taste for a distinct audience, but some day this level of intellectual music will break through the mainstream and start a new trend of musicians aspiring to more than the generic ‘rock star’ design. Perhaps Humanfly will lead the way to the new age of rock musicians, ones that strive for more than simple success, creating something more challenging for the players and listeners too.
Words by : Lee Diamond

As always show your support to the band, buy their merch.  This is without question an Album of the Year contender.  Thanks to Simon @ ilikepress for the hook up.  Thanks for reading!