Album review by Richard Lewis 1/12/2010
Hailing from Leeds - a city now firmly established as one of the most musically fertile places in the UK - Humanfly may be the harbingers (along with fellow residents Chickenhawk) of a region about to steal the Midlands’ claim to providing Britain’s heaviest rock groups. The heavy industry of the Black Country in years gone by was said to have had a profound effect on the music made by its inhabitants. Black Sabbath axeman Tony Iommi recalled his childhood drifting off to sleep hearing the sound of the drop forges in the steel works in 1950s Birmingham. It can be no accident also that Led Zeppelin’s legendary powerhouse drummer John Bonham was also from the area, as well as Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant.
Leeds - also a former city of heavy industry - must have located the same metallic blood running through its veins in recent years. Brew Records - home to Humanfly, the excellent Chickenhawk and the experimental Kong - has established a name for itself in sourcing the best in the current crop of heavy acts. Avoiding synth pulses, keyboards (or crucially) screamo vocals, in addition to evoking Sabbath, Humanfly also recall the heavier moments of Floyd and prog-experimentation of Hawkwind.
Featuring a mere six tracks and clocking in at a modest thirty-eight minutes, Humanfly’s third long player boasts an eclectic sonic palate incorporating acoustic guitars, social comment and spoken word pieces. Opening with possibly the most abrasive track, This is Where Your Parents Fucked sets out their stall, dense, mid-tempo grinding riffs with Ozzy-style vocals low in the mix. Self-deprecatingly describing their sound as "riff after riff… and so on", the four-piece pack enough light and shade into their sound to bring out the subtle melodies of the tracks
The otherwise instrumental, spendidly titled, English and Proud and Stupid and Racist begins with a sample of single-brain celled NF member responding to a BBC interviewer. Switching between passages of quiet but tense riffing and full on gale-force guitars, in sharp contrast Stew for the Murder Minded almost verges on punk, recalling the military precision of US hardcore act Black Flag. The Enemy of My Enemy is Me (another memorable title) meanwhile opens with a pulsating Hawkwind style intro before the guitars cut in like a buzzsaw and the track lurches through myriad tempo changes.
Juxtaposed with this is the title track - a surprising, successful attempt at mournful folk most likely owing its inspiration to Nick Drake’s landmark Bryter Layter. Despite the misleadingly light sound of Drake's songs, he had lyrics as dark as any found in metal. Clocking in just over two minutes, the final track by complete contrast stretches out to infinity at seventeen minutes. In keeping with the folk theme, Heavy Black Snow features spoken-word vocals from Rose Kemp, daughter of Steel Eye Span vocalist Maddy Prior. Beginning with a Sabbath Bloody Sabbath-style grinding riff, the track recalls Sonic Youth’s slow, atmospheric songs overlaid with spoken as opposed to sung lyrics, maintaining the same doomy pace throughout.
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