STEAK NUMBER EIGHT
I've said it before and I will, indubitably, make the exact same assertion many more times in the future. To be rather blunt, genre labels are a load of old bollocks. Sex Pistols had it spot on with the title of their one and only studio album. With this label and that touted around as supposed definitive descriptors of a particular band's sound, the true essence of any music can only ever be acquired, first-hand, from the listening experience. Of course, I'm dissing the nature of my own discourse here, although a review, at least, can offer a few pointers as to what you might be able to expect. After all, a journalist only has words, not the tonality of notes, to convey an impression on any given release. So, just why am I rambling away in a seemingly aimless manner? Shouldn't I be talking about Steak Number Eight's fourth studio album, 'Kosmokoma'? Of course, but I'm semi-annoyed and a little frustrated they've opted to describe themselves as "an atmospheric sludge band". It's too delimiting a description. There are some sludged-up doom passages in their music, although that's only one facet to this diversely innovative Belgian band. Personally, had I not already been aware of this band and their rather musically intriguing output to date, I wouldn't have bothered even checking out a band who summarise their sound as "sludge" (even "atmospheric sludge"). I receive around 40-50 new album promos for review consideration each and every week, and only ever have finite time to check out a small selection of these. Sludge wouldn't feature near the top of my list. So, what of Steak Number Eight and 'Kosmokoma'? You want more labels? Well, against my own dislike of categorisation, you'll also find elements of mathcore, post-metal, post-rock, prog, alt-rock, grunge, punk and... well, music that can't really be categorised at all, as it's just better described as "really great music". And, in essence, that's what Steak Number Eight make - incredibly good music. Fucking great music, in fact.
Whereas 2013's 'The Hutch' was, for me, a sideways step in terms of compositional quality from its predecessor, 'All is Chaos', Steak Number Eight's fourth full-length offering is a definite step forward. I've always admired these Belgians' songwriting, although it's always fallen a little short for the duration of an entire album, with the quality of stronger tracks undermined by the patchiness of weaker material. Don't get me wrong - I've loved their previous two albums, although they've not been "quite there". 'Kosmokoma', however, is their first album I've listened to all the way through and immediately thought, wow. With no filler and no dips in quality, this is the band at their compositional strongest. And they've opted for a fully organic sounding production this time, as all the music has a live and raw immediacy that, I guess, is apt for their self-perceived "atmospheric sludge" tag. Plus they've balanced out the accessibility with enough melodic handles to reel you in, before abusing your senses with all kinds of dissonance, odd time signatures, unpredictable tempo changes and, at times, a slow-burning progression towards some emotionally intense crescendos. My only negative criticism is with frontman Brent Vanneste's vocal performance. Whilst his growls (which almost have a scathing black metal bite) are befitting and effective, his clean voice is, perhaps, still developing; it's a little on the dreary and weak side during some passages of music that'd most certainly benefit from a beefier delivery. His clean vocals are not bad in any small way; rather, they just need a little more oomph over some of the more intense passages where he exercises that side of his voice.
So, my overall judgement? This is Steak Number Eight's strongest work to date. Simple as. And, as John Lydon and co. asserted nearly four decades ago - "never mind the bollocks"...forget nonsense genre labelling, just go and have a listen for yourself.
Review by Mark Holmes
20th Nov 2015
1) Return Of The Kolomon
2) Your Soul Deserves To Die Twice
3) Principal Features Of The Cult
4) Gravity Giants
6) Knows Sees Tells All
7) Claw It In Your Eyes
8) It Might Be The Lights
9) Cheating The Gallows
10) Future Sky Batteries
11) Space Punch
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...they've balanced out the accessibility with enough melodic handles to reel you in, before abusing your senses with all kinds of dissonance, odd time signatures, unpredictable tempo changes and, at times, a slow-burning progression towards some emotionally intense crescendos."