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(44 min, Altrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Kurt's Casino 9:52 2. The Little Man 3:56 3. Accidentally in San Sebastian 4:22 4. The Campfire Strikes Back 4:37 5. The Dancing Dinosaur 10:28 6. Skunks 5:01 7. Pate a Tartiner 6:06 LINEUP: Gabor Voros – guitar; vocals Lisbet Verlaett – vocals Megan Quill – vocals Jonathan Calles – drums Jouni Isoherranen – bass; keyboards Joren Cautares – vibraphones Pedro Guridi – bass clarinet Pol Mareen – saxophone
Prolusion. Following “Flanders Fields” from 2011, “Guzzle It Up” is the fourth full-length album by the Belgian ensemble HUMBLE GRUMBLE.
Analysis. Unlike its multi-track predecessor consisting predominantly of short pieces, this album is only comprised of seven tracks, ranging in length from four to ten and a half minutes, which is a positive factor, I must add. Traditionally, the band makes a lot of noise here too, but there are also plenty of complex hard-edged arrangements, which are at once innovative and accessible. Each of the tracks on this album has its own identity and character, although it will take a few listens for each song to reveal its nature to you in detail. While a couple of compositions, namely Accidentally in San Sebastian and Pate a Tartiner, consist primarily of standard art-rock song structures, the others are excellent in all senses. These are Kurt's Casino, The Little Man, The Campfire Strikes Back, Skunks and The Dancing Dinosaur, all navigating through a barrage of twisted and frenzied key and time changes, slightly angular vocal harmonies and powerful shifts in coloration, intensity and dynamics. The music is overall a combination of Chamber Rock, Jazz-Fusion, Sympho-Prog, Folk (of the South European variety, so to speak), Hard Rock, Prog-Metal – almost everything. To be more precise, on each of the former three pieces it represents a clever balance of the first four genres, while the latter two fully suit the idiom (albeit the last of them additionally contains a couple of moves with country-based arrangements), both of them having some absolutely killer riffing, which you would never expect in this context, but they sure do. The first theme riff of the last of them is a prime example, with its heavy-driving guitar which resurfaces in exactly the right places. Back to the album as a whole: the aforesaid complex style of music can be hit-or-miss, so a strong group dynamic is essential, and the band is developing one. The level of composition and production herein are a full notch or two higher than on the band’s previous endeavor. No simplistic brass rock moves this time, but almost throughout one might get a sense that they are listening to a sonic collision between Frank Zappa, The Balkan Horses Band and Jethro Tull. Indeed, Gabor Voros’s voice often has a Jon Anderson-like quality that offers a sense of familiarity (albeit he is a chameleon singer in fact), and the dense and layered instrumental complexity with lyrics that go beyond the standard fare – as well as vocals themselves, which mostly represent a mixed choir. Well, the vocals take some getting used to: they’re distinctive in a semi-folk, semi-operatic sense – a style artsy enough to capture some listeners and alienate others. Either way, challenging music this is, with plenty to hold the listener’s attention.
Conclusion. The conclusion is quite simple. A lot more complex as well as varied than its predecessor, “Guzzle It Up” is a challenging, very well executed album of thinking man’s music. Highly recommended!
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: July 5, 2013
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