By Various Artists
The third instalment in independent, Leeds-based record label Dance To The Radio's 4x12" series, kicks off with a brand new song from Leeds' Chickenhawk.
'Scorpieau' sees the band trading their usual shouting, squealing and screaming for an off-kilter, spoken-word vocal line that brings some catchiness and humour to the song's twisted bleakness.
'Scorpieau' is a menacing gallop of bristling riffs that twist off into spazzcore-influenced shapes. When the guitars aren't out-right snarling, they're chugging darkly away in the background, occasionally unfurling into long, gritty guitar lines. Song highlight comes when 'Scorpieau' breaks out into a riff-heavy swagger that marks the end of the song's accessible (or as accessible as Chickenhawk get) first section, and the beginning of its experimental second section. Here, Chickenhawk really indulge their penchant for the unusual; unleashing a headlong, punkish plunge of squealing riffs that collapses into a crackly, bass-heavy fug, before screeching to an abrupt finish.
As always, Chickenhawk push the boundaries of metal, but what's really surprising, is how catchy the opening half is. Splitting 'Scorpieau' into an accessible first section, and an art-rock second section, is a clever move. They lure the listener into their strange world, before shooting off on a full-on, experimental tangent, and dragging the unsuspecting listener along for the ride.
And, staying in Leeds, Dance To The Radio have found a song that performs a perfect balancing act between quirky indie, and instantly likeable, chewy-centred pop, in the form of 'Husk' by Bear Driver member, Olfar. The lurching guitars and marching drumbeats, lay down kooky indie-rock foundations, while Olfar's lilting, poppy vocals provide a sweet contrast to all that angular indie. The chorus in particular, has some serious sing along potential.
Next up are a Brighton trio who cite their influences as "glaciers, caverns and waning moons" and describe their sound as "nightmare pop." And, to continue the beautifully, darkly poetic theme, they've called this song 'Skeleton Swoon' and go by the band-name 'Esben and The Witch.'
The song itself is a languid meander across glistening, moony soundscapes constructed from frontwoman Rachel's ghostly vocals, lashings of icy sound effects, and voiceovers about X-rays, shadows and spontaneous combustion. Rather than a tune, the effect is a sensation of space, with the sound effects that account for approximately 90% of 'Skeleton Swoon' echoing away into the song's cold, distant corners. As a piece of mood-music, it evokes a powerful atmosphere, but it's too insubstantial to be a song, in the traditional sense.
Everything about Manchester foursome Airship's contribution is understated. From the subtly military-tinged drumbeats, to the slippery-slick bass coiling away in the background, and the backing vocals breathing and sighing behind frontman Elliott Williams's vocals, 'Spirit Party' is luxuriant, unhurried grooviness, from start to finish. Despite a construction similar to indie anthems, the chorus is also curiously understated. It goes for a softly expansive feel, with sweet, high notes courtesy of Williams, rather than chasing after that big, garish, stadium-filling blow out. It's a refreshing bucking of the 'anthemic indie' trend.
'Dance To The Radio Volume Three's major draw is the new Chickenhawk song 'Scorpieau,' but Airship's contribution is also a solid, indie-rock track that just may have you checking out more of the band's back catalogue. Olfar and Esben and The Witch's contributions definitely have a rough-around-the-edges, 'new band' feel to them, but are nevertheless an intriguing introduction to acts you probably won't have previously heard of. An eclectic round-up of four bands who hover just outside of their chosen genres.
Avant-garde prog ideals and chaotic, balls out, rock and metal