28 December, 2015
Larry Leadfoot - Hellxotica
1. Leviathan, 2. Discarnate (War Planet), 3. Psychological Warfare, 4. SWAB, 5. Hellxotica
In Australia, where the band comes from, seasonal wildfires are hard to control. And such is Larry Leadfoot's music on their debut EP - once ignited, the musicians try to suppress the flames through dousing them with more fuel. The audible influences stretch between djent, prog, death metal, and grindcore, since the musicians are fans of Strapping Young Lad, Meshuggah, Mr. Bungle, Death, King Diamond, Slayer, and John Zorn amongst many other established names. Tension and thrills are dominant in most of the five songs present on this EP - expect a lot of excitement.
'Leviathan' opens the EP with darkness and gravity. Knotty and down-tuned guitar riffs are skillfully mixed with drum beats. Growled vocals sound murky, and are a bit on the noisy side, but are actually not present too much throughout the track. By the end of this song (and the whole release), it becomes clear that the material has been written to smash listeners to pieces with instrumentation rather than vocal parts. The arrangements sound steady, somewhat hypnotic when the tempo slows down and guitars start rattling in the background, yet they do not repeat often. All this diversity and additional sound effects here intrigue the ear to discover what’s next.
The only entirely instrumental composition, 'Discarnate (War Planet)' starts on a buzzy, heavy and slowly note. Think of Godflesh with its weariness but also everything else that sludge can offer. The song brings a very dark, cinematic atmosphere, so it instantly triggers one’s imagination. Upon reaching the middle of the song, the music goes for a 'binary' flavor, as if becoming further disintegrated digitally. This, in turn, leads to a sudden end.
The intro to 'Psychological Warfare' uses a slow blend of bass, down-tuned guitar and contrasting high-pitched riffage, while the accompanying drum beat is distinctive and fast. Think of arrangements heard in canon black or death metal tracks where darkness and fire prevail. The vocals sound as if coming from the deep pits down below - hidden, growled, tormented, and screamy at times. The wall of sound assaults the ears though a tightly packed guitars-drums cannonade. The band surely know how to control the mood through slowing down or speeding up.
'SWAB' is like a raging fiery tornado on the brink of releasing its compressed tension. The expertly chosen diversity of arrangements plays a significant role here. Drumming and down-tuned, chunky guitars are accented first, while a contrasting rhythm guitar riff along with soloing are enriching the background. There are high-speed flights and stopovers, as well. The vocals are based on a steady leitmotif utilizing deep growls and screams - but again, sound as if coming from beneath the surface. The tempo changes are quite unexpected but they allow you to adjust to them comfortably. And just when you expect all that diabolical atmosphere to end, the arrangements and rhythm take a different turn, pushing into another hell-gate. The band add more sonic fuel in parts where the flames need to be ignited - to suck in and then purge your soul through your ears. The trio make the most of their instruments here and perhaps reach the maximum power possible. This track, along with 'Psychological Warfare' may be the best representation of Larry Leadfoot's song writing and performance skills at this stage.
'Hellxotica' begins noisily, a manifest of the in-your-face method. The song takes you to a battlefield where instruments fight one another. Mad drumming meets unpredictable arrangements brought by guitars and bass - faster, louder, more intense each time. A bit of the pent-up tension is released by the end of the EP, finishing on a slower, droning, and fading-out note.
Larry Leadfoot’s crew are very skilled and cooperate dynamically. It's a pure joy to hear them play together, but also let your ear follow individual instrumentation paths. The band was formed in Sydney in 2011, but Aaron White (guitars, bass) and Nick Parkinson (drums) have been friends since their childhood years. They met Tama Makiiti (vocals) at an audio college several years later. Larry Leadfoot plays shows in Australia, making the best of their hard-hitting music through live application.
On the technical side, instrumental parts have definitely been prioritised - they are produced and mastered very well. Vocals seem to have secondary focus, yet they could have benefitted from improved loudness and depth to complement overall production quality. It is worth noting that Hellxotica was mixed and mastered by Jocke Skog who is best known for his involvement with Clawfinger.
For the purpose of this review, the music was streamed directly from Bandcamp. Hopefully the high quality downloads you can purchase through the band's online store sound better.
(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Music Magazine, December 23rd, 2015. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)
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Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine