HUMANFLY – Awesome Science (Brew Records)
Leeds metallers Humanfly returned this month with their fourth album Awesome Science, and my, what an awesome beast it is too!
I only became aware of the band with their previous album/EP Darker Later, and in that record’s raw thirty eight minutes it ploughed more metal genres than you would normally find in a band’s whole back catalogue, from their early home in sludge to growled death metal vocals and to more progressive leanings on seventeen minute album closer Heavy Black Snow that featured folk metal singer/songwriter Rose Kemp.
It is only this last track that resembles anything on the new album though, it is almost as if Darker Later were a try out album for the style they were to take forward and Awesome Science is proof that this seed has germinated into a tree of hugely intricate branches that would take more than one attempt to reach the top or to fully appreciate all the twists and turns involved in the climb. In other words this is an album that takes more than one cursory listen to get a good idea about the whole thing.
At just six tracks covering the fifty minutes, from the shortest at just under five minutes (Poetry of Light) to the longest (the epic fifteen minute Armour of Science) it manages to channel the styles and influences of The Mars Volta, King Crimson, Amplifier, Mastodon and many more into what is fast becoming the best album I have heard so far this year. There has been a fair bit of good stuff in 2013 already but this one is the first that has had me continually returning, I am on about my seventh or eighth listen now and I am still finding new things to love about it!
First track, Golden Arrows, starts off gently, John Sutcliffe singing about how the earth revolving continually around the sun to no real end is like life (the theme for all the tracks seems to be cosmology and the stars, fitting with Awesome Science of the title. Apologies to the band for any ham fisted attempts at interpreting the lyrics!), and for the first three minutes it continues in this vein until it breaks down into a low down almost jazzy but crunchy riff which continues, spiralling into more and more feverish territory for the remainder of the track’s eight and a half minutes. On first listen the contrast to previous material is quite startling.
This pattern continues with second track A Majestic Story, although, if I had to compare, this track feels more like Crack The Skye era Mastodon than the previous track’s Mars Volta dalliances.
Next track The Apple That Never Fell culminates in a furious, complicated riff that is one of the best I have heard in a long time!
Poetry of Light might be the shortest track here (at a mere five minutes!) but includes almost math rock levels of guitar and drum intricacies.
Of course I have to mention the album’s prog rock high point, that being the penultimate track Armour of Science, using the none more prog rock style of breaking the track down into three “pieces”, I. Birth of the Universe , II. From Zero to Infinity and III. All the Colours of the Rainbow. Tricky time signatures, sudden stops, complicated drum fills, they’re all here in a track that has so many different facets it never gets tiresome.
The album closes with the initially more delicate Frozen in Time, Billions of Light Years Away whose floaty heartfelt vocals, after the previous monster, act as a breather and a nice coda to the album, you can imagine you’re left floating in space in your broken down craft after a major interstellar battle staring at the nebulous wonders out of the cockpit window waiting for the inevitable end. Although half way through, the track steps up a gear again as if that last alien fighter you thought you’d destroyed returns and before you know it you’re fully back in the fight until at last, KABOOM, it’s all over, the screen fades to black as bits of your once trusty impregnable craft float through space! Or not, maybe that’s just my geeky sci-fi leanings speaking!
Two years ago Manchester’s Amplifier produced The Octopus, a huge sprawling two hour double album that, in my opinion, worked for about 70% of the time, it sometimes felt a little too stretched and although good it never felt a fully formed article, rather a double album of some very good tunes. With Awesome Science HUMANFLY have completely nailed it, it is intricate, detailed, heavy yet accessible. I hope this blasts them into the stratosphere! I must say I’m looking forward to their album launch show at The Brudenell in Leeds on Saturday March 9th.