1. Good Evening, 2. Overlord, 3. Slaves Of The North Sea, 4. Succubus
It seems that Gus McArthur belongs to the group of recently created metal bands joining the music scene with proper preparation. They have met all known requirements that help a reliable artist become noticed in the sea of new bands quickly. Firstly, they have a great acoustic potential created by successful song writing and high performance skills. Secondly, they rely on a well established belief in their sound and talents alone for the initiation of their career, instead of super-duper outfits or an army of stylists hired for promotional purposes. Such a natural, organic band can be trusted much more easily than something more akin to a "product".
There is a diversity of moods and melodies brought by this self-titled EP, so the chances are low that you could get bored during its running time of 22 minutes. These tunes bring novelty to the fold of well known, mostly metal subgenres. Their refreshing new style is based on an intelligent mix of various influences together with a solid carving of the band's own sound definition.
The EP opens with "Good Evening", presenting sweet and innocent melodies from the beginning, in contrast to what metal music usually offers. Initially, the track is kept in a lyrical pop-rock style, but don't let yourself be fooled. The vocals along with increased riff and drum dynamics announce that something edgy may be coming next. There are strong hard rock influences in the choruses and a return to the opening, sugary style in verses. You'll stay with the band when you hear their evergreen, Santana-esque guitar riffs at the end here.
Gus McArthur have released a video for this track and possibly destroyed all expectations. If you had already visualised the audio on your own, you could be forgiven for placing these guys on a big stage, covered by blasting lights, in typical shredding poses reminiscent of Van Halen or Megadeth. In reality, you get a deep green cornfield under a blue sky and you'll watch Gus McArthur's musicians passing through, wearing totally ordinary clothes (there’s even a Star Wars T-shirt!) and black & white masks. You'll then realize that besides the band's ironical sense of humor, their musical talent shines through on its own, so they need no fireworks or masquerades to attract listeners to their music.
"Overlord" starts off as an in-your-face cannonade of sounds which also sticks closely to the style of hard rock through fast paced guitar riffs, drums, and bass. Vocals take on a classical hard rock and power metal direction, then switch to a more modern tuning. This song is about WWII soldiers who fought and died during the D-Day (also known as Operation Overlord). Indeed, said riffs stitch the composition like bullets released from a machine gun. The rhythm section works very nicely together, always in position to enrich the listening experience, instead of sabotaging each other. The band doesn't shy away from borrowing from hip-hop music, either. Since there are two vocalists in the band, this time you'll hear Gus performing spoken word during a part of the track where arrangements go to the background and serve to highlight lyrics. And again, everything fits together very well, thanks to the overpowering rhythm.
A victorious, cinematic theme opens "Slaves Of The North Sea" with a classical feel. It is then followed by fast paced, tight guitar riffs, a thrilling drum beat and a muezzin's prayer mixed together. It gives the impression that Gus McArthur might have been inspired by some of Ministry's music here, though a careful listener will also spot acoustic influences derived from progressive rock later on in the song. The tempo accelerates and the composition evolves into maturity by taking various, sometimes unexpected turns, surprising listeners on many occasions. Honan's vocals sound expressive and well controlled. The extensive skill of all musicians (Honan "The Destroyer" - guitar and vocals, Gus "The Hater" - vocals/spoken words, Jake "The Duke" - bass) can be heard in this track. Not only do they showcase an excellent collaboration within the collective, but also their own individual skills. "Slaves Of The North Sea" is another song on this EP with a 'military' background, and the theme is carried by accompanying SFX (the whizzing of falling bombs and people's screams) at the end of the composition.
The last song, "Succubus", opens with another thought-provoking and moody intro. It is then followed by arrangements which thematically oscillate between 70's progressive rock and 80's metal. The chorus sounds as if dedicated to Megadeth, due to melodious vocals - but there's no cheesiness about that, since it's performed very skillfully. Honan's riffs sound vital, clean and are performed extremely well technically. Drums and bass kick each other to run faster, or stop for the moment when the guitar wants to talk solo. "Succubus" is a potential hit waiting for all those listeners who enjoy both harmony and gradation of said arrangements. Other metal fans will definitely enjoy headbanging to an irresistible rhythm.
It should be noted that these Californian musicians keep a strong grip on the song writing process so neither do arrangements slip away nor are any of the elements misplaced. Even if the instrumental parts leave a bit of a space, the vocals fit in the gaps as smoothly as the only matching piece of a puzzle. Moreover, the trio's work is enriched by Alex Venders' excellent drumming - he's an Italian session & touring musician, who has worked with many other bands.
Finally, the audio quality of this EP (mastering and production) is exceptional. You can clearly hear every separate instrumental track along with the vocals, so you can easily switch your focus between them while listening to any of the songs present on the release. If you listen even closer, you'll soon discover that these compositions should work extremely well also as 'instrumental only' versions. Still Honan’s memorable and well-employed vocals complete these songs in their entirety by tying all and any loose ends.
Overall, true talent in connection with hard work pays off sooner or later - so Gus McArthur should continue sticking to their goals and never feel discouraged. Their live performances should be powerful enough to carry the vibe of the songs they recorded in the studio. Hopefully they will not make us wait for another EP or full album too long.
(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Music Magazine, November 18th, 2015. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)
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Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine