Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Æges - Above & Down Below (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 23/9/2014
Label: The Mylene Sheath

Above & Down Below CD/DD/LP track listing:

1). Echoes
2). The Hunter
3). Clouds
4). Parasite
5). Fault
6). My Last Words
7). Rats
8). Halos
9). Leech
10). The Line
11). Wasted Time
12). As I Grow Old

Æges is:

Kemble Walters | Vocals, Guitars
Tony Baumeister | Bass
Cory Clark | Guitars, Vocals
Mike Land | Drums


This is a great record. Alive with a real surging energy, a melodicism as contagious as Cliff Richard is irritating at Christmas – as Cliff Richard all year round, frankly – and a sharp yet warm and rounded sound, its hooks bury deep within your psyche straight from the off. They manage to store up a delectable feast worth of influences across the record, like a hamster stuffing its cheeks as it prepares to hibernate over a long, cold winter. But they blend the ingredients together to make a properly massive and extremely unique sounding album, they come off sounding nothing quite like anything you’ve heard before.      

From the avant garde accessibility of Muse and the fuzzy spit of QOTSA via Baroness meets Royal Blood flavoured elephant noises guitar work and the pop sensibilities of Floor's catchy doom metal, the table they have laid out for their guests is exceptional. Each and every song is humongous, quilted in groove and dexterity, every chorus a battering ram aimed straight at the jukebox in your mind. ‘Above & Down Below’ stands out a mile away, its lighthouse spotlight beaming across the darkness enveloped sea of competition. Stick it on, crank it up and, if you're anything like this humble writer, it won’t be long until your backing this band to do truly great things.

’Echoes’ steam rolls into life with a gunshot snare drum which is instantly engaging, instantly alluring vocals reminiscent of an on form Black Keys takes hold. Its chorus will stay with you for a long time, haunting you until you give it another spin. This is a trend, I must add, that is continuous throughout the album. It becomes more than just a great rock and roll record, it becomes an addiction. 

There are so many riffs spread across the album that make you wanna stamp about your room like an woolly mammoth after a bag of coke has exploded in its stomach. There is monstrous guitar work at play here and it never lets you off lightly. Even though there are two guitars ravaging your ear drums here, it is the bass that comes through most menacingly present. It rattles, rages and rips apart any cleanliness their sound could have had and it’s all the better for it. As smooth, melodious and catchy as the pop-leaning vocals are, the sound that backs it up is just nasty. Their mainstream friendly hooks are to their gritty, pounding heaviness what a strong cheese is to beans on toast. The two marry together perfectly; once you’ve tried it you can’t imagine having it any other way.

’Clouds’ slows things down a few tracks in with Cory Clark’s vocals croaking soulfully along with a power that really draws you in. ‘Fault’ loses its shit in the vein of QOTSA with a really swaggering, disastrously enjoyable masterpiece of sharp heavy melodic rock. More elephantine riffs with the kind of chord progressions, along with more of Clark’s breezy vocals, that get your hairs raised and skin crawling.

’Halos’ is another fine cut. A chorus big enough to park, not just a bus, but an entire bus station in it, the vocals again cut deep, delivered from the deepest caverns of the heart, pumping blood through the rest of this songs crooning body. The band have released an acoustic version on their YouTube channel too which is simply breath taking. And when, at the end of that chorus, the skin on the back of your neck and on your arms are racing skyward, a wrecking ball of a riff comes crashing in and knocks you for six. Fuck.

Closing number ‘As I Grow Old’ is the rawest, most vulnerable sounding song on the record. Simplistic acoustic work creates a foundation for more bellowed out vocals which are layered and harmonised intricately where needed. Distressed feedback flows under the current of the song giving it a starkly uncomfortable yet resoundingly mesmeric feeling. This is chilling.     

The variety of sounds that make up what Æges are, act like strands of a spiders web. Only when the full, complex structure comes together and the spider can shelter within its confides and wait for the flies to come foolishly flocking can these individual strands be truly appreciated. They make up a greater whole that is staggering, each strand as important in the bigger picture as the next and last. The home that they have spun is bound to, like it has done so cruelly to this humble writer, ensnare more and more victims. Riffs bigger than Bigfoot’s footprints, vocals heartfelt, vulnerable, naked and spine-tingling – the whole thing is simply perfect. When all is said and done, I am quite simply in love with this band.

Words by:
Phil Weller

You can pick up a digital copy here and a CD/LP copy here.

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