Wednesday 23 May 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Wychhound, "Earth Orbiter"

By: David Jupp

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 01/05/2018
Label: Independent

The many audio-faces that tell the story of ‘Earth Orbiter’ are proof, that if instrumental music is judged right, executed well, and arranged with craft, riffs beat words. Every damn time.

“Earth Orbiter” DD track listing:

1). Flux
2). Supercluster
3). Comet Shoemaker – Levy 9 (SL-9)
4). Aurora
5). Matter – Antimatter Annihilation

The Review:

When a band parts company with their singer, the ensuing discussion generally goes something like this. ‘Fuck! It won’t be the same man, someone else singing those songs. They might as well pack it in.’ Well in 2017 and only two years on from their debut EP, Wychhound did just this by saying farewell to singer Jimmy Holifield. Rather than start the depressing trudge through London’s abundance of awful singers, the band decided to strike out on a new path as an instrumental four-piece. Shedding the crutches a vocalist provides in both immediacy and structure is a brave decision, and especially risky when you already have an established following who expect ‘songs.’ So, as Wychhound set forth on a new journey the question is, can they fill the yawning void left by words?

Earth Orbiter’ sets flight to a wall of feedback. As the pressure builds and ‘Flux’ ignites, Wychhound let fly with a barrage of strings, cymbals and skins. It soon becomes clear how the wordless quartet intend on bringing their old fans with them, and to be honest it’s the oldest trick in the book. Big riffs. Lots of them. Really fast. Before you even reach the minute mark Wychhound have twisted their audio-rubix-cube three times. Twist one, swaggering math-groove. Twist two, euphoric chord progression. Twist again, Tool inflected grunge-swerve. As minute two lands guitarist Miles Mcdonald swaggers in with a howling solo and boots the whole metaphor out the window. Singers? Pfft.

The success of instrumental heavy music revolves around a bands ability to judge phrasing. Without lyrics to convey a message you are left with the subtle art of assembling meaning from a jigsaw of riffs. It’s like the best kind of sign language, hold a riff out for too long and the listener grows bored, take it away too quickly and the message is lost. Track two ‘Supercluster’ serves as an advanced elocution lesson in riff-annunciation. Guitarist Roberto Pini kicks things off with a superb off-kilter riff before Mcdonald laces another emotive lead into the fray. Just as the narrative begins to wane bass player Neil Neighbour and drummer Sid Nagdhi grab the track by the low-end and spread a stuttering bang all over it.

Having seen Wychhound cultivate the seeds of these songs across a variety of London’s venues in the last year I must admit that when I first saw the artwork for the record I didn’t really get it. Don’t get me wrong the art looks great but I didn’t quite see what a planet of faces had to do with the songs I had heard.

Named after a comet that broke apart in 1992 and collided with Jupiter, ‘Comet Shoemaker – Levy 9 (SL-9)’s seven-minutes of aching slow-dawn soon provide me with the artworks meaning. Wychhound are a band with many faces. Just as the opening act of the record’s focus sharpens into a prog-metal guise the second movement softens into soaring arpeggiated post-rock.

Great records are made in small increments. The stunning arpeggio that permeates ‘Comet...’s skyline progression is beautiful enough, but exceptional bands always reach for that extra percent. So, as Mcdonald’s triads arc into the records second half, Roberto Pini’s haunting e-bow adds that last extra lift and I challenge anyone not to crane their neck and sigh.

Next up is ‘Aurora.’ Until now Wychhound’s sophomore effort has worn its influences on its sleeve and that doesn’t stop here. Tool, Russian Circles, early Barrows and “Zidane”-era Mogwai have all stirred in places, but now Elder’s totemic influence on the contemporary heavy landscape looms into view. Luckily Wychhound have no intention of merely paying homage and as the Boston trio’s Spires Burn/Release’ EP flickers in the distance the band re-apply their riff-sculpture and successfully carve another fresh face into the records strata.

Matter – Antimatter Annihilation’ brings the album to a close and makes a welcome return to the cinematic melodies of ‘Comet Shoemaker.’ As the spiralling guitar-runs that litter ‘Earth Orbiter’ arch back and dive into another surging chord sequence all fears of a loss of narrative are expelled and the record re-enters the atmosphere on a surge of hefty tone. 

In the last year Wychhound have become a staple of London’s burgeoning heavy-scene. So, by making the decision to record ‘Earth Orbiter’ live, I’m glad to say they have successfully captured the ebb, flow, movement and act that make their live show so popular. What’s more impressive however, is the successful progression from traditional stoner band into a new instrumental landscape. In music, just because a choice is brave doesn’t necessarily mean it is right, so in shedding their singer Wychhound could have easily gotten lost in a sea of riffs that lacked narrative. Luckily the many audio-faces that tell the story of ‘Earth Orbiter’ are proof, that if instrumental music is judged right, executed well, and arranged with craft, riffs beat words. Every damn time.

“Earth Orbiter” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook