Hydrahead means business… BIG BUSINESS!

June 11, 2009

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Click the pic for their myspace!

I’d like to start off topic and say that I was at the Isis/Pelican show at The Phoenix last week and it was fantastic. It was one of those shows that really inspires you to keep making music and keep pushing to get to their level especially because they are both such a similar genre to us. That’s all I have to say about that.

So, you may recall me mentioning that I was going to talk about the new “Minsk” record. I have decided not to, because it would just be too biased. Almost as biased as my first review about “Hymn to the Immortal Wind.” Let me say though, that it is a great record. It’s called “With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone” and I highly recommend going out to buy that one or getting a free version off the net. You wont be disappointed. Anyway, after deciding not to review Minsk, I spent a while searching various indie label websites for some new albums that seemed interesting. One of which was “Hydrahead” who is home to a lot of great bands like, Jesu, Zozobra, Tusk, Pelican, Mare (who are reuniting for one show in Missassauga  June 20th, which is the same night The Dillinger Escape Plan play in Guelph… I am hoping to go to both) and many more. But the one that caught my attention was the new “Big Business” record. I have everything by this band on my itunes and am fairly familiar with them, but they aren’t a band I listen to regularly. They have a really unique sound but they seemed too strait up for me to really get into them. 

I bet at this point you’re saying, “But Andrew, who is this band and what are they about?” Well!… They are simple, but huge sounding sludge metal or doom-punk (if that’s even a genre). They have a pretty interesting back story. The band was founded by two members, Coady Willis on drums and Jared Warren on everything else. They are almost completely bass driven and so in the early days either performed as a two-piece or with a guest guitar player. The two also were members of the “The Melvins” on the “Senile Animal” album and did a fairly large tour as members of the band. If you are unfamiliar with The Melvins I suggest getting into them. They are a whole different world of music and such a unique sonic experience . Big Business like The Melvins have a distinct silly side to them which I could not love more. Since touring for their second full length, “Here Comes The Waterworks” they have added a permanent third member on guitar to fill the sound out. The lucky guy is “Toshi Kasai” who fits their sound perfectly. With the enormous success of the aforementioned album and touring with Tool for a leg on their last tour, their next album was highly anticipated and was finally released on May 12th of this year.  The album is called “Mind The Drift”.

Right away the album drew me in because of the cool drum intro to the opening track “Found Art.” The drums, although never complicated, sound incredible throughout the record. They sound natural and you can tell it’s a human playing the drums. Which is a refreshing change from the last three albums I reviewed. The pulse of the first song is impossible to ignore and has you tapping your foot and bobbing your head. They don’t stray too much from their style on the first track with the intense low end attack and powerful bass driven riffs. This coupled with the unique vocal style of Jared Warren makes this band sound like no other band I’ve heard. The only vocals that are similar that I know of are that of Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead fame. The songs are usually fairly short and around the normal single length. But none of them are “single” type songs as they really don’t follow much structure. After having your chest kicked in with the pummeling vibe of the first song they go right into one, which is fairly similar, but with some cool attributes. Although I didn’t listen to the older Big Big business a whole lot, I don’t ever recall them using synth or samples very much if ever. The second second track, “Gold and Final” incorporates a cool sample throughout the first bit of the song which is used to perfection to create tension right before the big low end filled down beat before bringing it back at the end as a cool fade out.

The third song may be my favourite on the album. It’s called “Cats, Mice.” The 3/4 vibe throughout creates a great hypnotic feel that is sure to have you swaying with a partner (if there’s one around). The song also showcases Toshi’s guitar a little bit, although the music is always fairly minimalist and none of them really show off. The lyrics are great in this song, especially the main lyric which is, “Cats, Mice, rapped in their own device.” or “Cats, Mice, locked in their tricks tonight, quietly wait in the shadows.” This song also shows a writing technique they use throughout the record and not a whole lot on the other records, which is the use of back up vocals. It sounds simple enough, but they use them to great affect and they add so much to Warren’s vocals.  This is also used with great affect in the fourth song which is the most silly on the record. It has a great punk vibe but with a cool poly-rhythmical guitar at the beginning which has a great old school punk tone as well. This middle section in general is probably the most solid on the record including the title track which immediately follows. This song is the most classic Big Business vibe with the overly-simplified big bass riff with drums building around it. This song has the biggest and most obvious “Chorus” in the song. For being a sludge band this chorus is extremely catchy and has you singing the main line over and over, which I’ll talk about a bit more when i talk about the lyrics as a whole.

The last three songs don’t disappoint either, although they are definitely that classic Big Business vibe. They do however keep you interested with some different additions that you don’t hear on their other songs or records. “Ayes Have It” has a really cool organ part throughout with a bit of a different outro and “Cold Lunch” has a bit more guitar than normal overtop of a bit of a flashy drum intro. The last track called “Theme From Business II” is, in the simplest terms, awesome. The build is great and the samples in the background create an enormous amount of tension right before the drums come in fully at about two minutes in. The build is the longest on the record as the song takes about eight minutes. If you know me, I love the big long build so it’s no wonder I really love this song, especially with the guitar play during the second major build. This song has the most variety in parts and the most cool transitions as it moves from the almost funeral march first build into an almost happy and over all epic last half. The drums are phenomenal on this track and are a great example of how to build up and tear down a song using the drums. There are a lot of bands, some of which I have talked about on this page, that should listen to this track in order to gain this important skill. 

 

Click it for their main website.

Click it for their main website.

 

 

Lets talk about lyrics. The lyrics are just great on the record with lots of weird metaphors and imagery that leaves the meaning and emotional impact up to the interpretation of the listener. The rhythmical style of his vocals is great too and different in most songs while playing off the bass so well. The lyrics of the title track are a good example of everything he does well, and it’s short so I’ll let you read the whole thing. 

You take the east, I’ll take the west
If we end up in the middle then we’ll know
You start sinking, better grab your oars and row

Can’t draw a map with honey
Not a lesson, that’s just good advice
Unexplaining how it happened twice
It happened thrice

If you’re talking you better be walking
And please take the path that you know
You stop thinking, making up the words as you go
As you go

(repeated)

The production on this record is second-to-none. The band went with a familiar face in Phil Ek, who produced their two records preceding this one. Big business has such a unique sound that they rightfully went with someone who knows the sound well. Phil Ek along with whoever did the mix (can’t find that out anywhere on the net. I guess thats a bonus of actually buying the album and having the liner notes) did such a great job with all the tones. Being as bass driven as it is, they made sure the low end was so massive and pummeling that you can’t mistake the tone for anyone else. The only bass tone I’ve come across that’s bigger is a band called “Lightning Bolt” who is insane! The drums sound so natural on this album! This is something I’ve noticed as a trait with most Hydrahead bands. The toms sound so huge and the kick drum sounds like… well… a kick drum with actual musical quality to it. The guitar sounds great too. Although with seemingly nothing above 1K in the mix, save for the pick of the bass, the engineers had a lot of space to work with for the guitars and vocals. The vocals are mixed great too, with tons of layers all the time. 

Musically they all get the job done and have compiled a lot of really great, well-written riffs. But those who know me know that I love a little bit of show off. Especially when there is space to do so. I know they go for a simple vibe and are a groove based band above all. That being said, there are some spots that the guitar or drums could have ripped for a couple of minutes and I would be happy. Toshi shows he really knows his place in the band though, as he mostly just lets the bass and drums build the songs and plays texture around the vocals. Which is what you would expect in this band. 

Overall I really can’t complain about this record in anyway. It’s not my favourite band or type of music. But it’s different and definitely gets the head banging. I recommend a listen to anyone who likes cool music and I will definitely see them if they come around this area. Although they aren’t coming to Canada on this upcoming tour, they are heading to Detroit if anyone want to drive through a ghost-town/state to see some good sludge metal. Anyway, thats all for me for now. 

Until next time… NO MORE KITSCH!

Hill of Yage

This week I’ve been listening to: “Behold… The Arctopus!” Such a great jazz-metal band from New York. Dude plays a 12 string bass and they have a song called “You Will Be Reincarnated as an Imperial Space Turtle.” What more could you possibly want! Also a quick side not… Blind Gaurdian is right after Big Business in my itunes so I also listened to almost their entire discography and I don’t know whether to love them or laugh at them. I guess that’s their goal though.

This Week I’ve Been Watching: Just Started Lost season 5… judging by the first episode I’m in for a mind-fuck of a season.

This week I’ve been reading: Not doing Dune yet. Just got a book called “Catch-22” from Luke. Apparently it’s a dark comedy about the Second World War. Can’t wait!

 

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2 Responses to “Hydrahead means business… BIG BUSINESS!”

  1. Emma Says:

    This blog’s really quite intersting.. Thankyou 🙂

  2. indiescene Says:

    Thanks Emma! Glad you enjoy it. Thanks so much for reading.


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