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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Album Review: Steak - "Disastronaut"

Today’s journey into the unknown centers around an as yet unheralded band from London appetizingly named Steak, who have just released this past May their first album, “Disastronaut”, on Stargun Music, available as a download on bandcamp.com (see link below) as part of a ‘name your price’ arrangement. But, beyond a few reviews on your favorite obscure rock websites and a couple of YouTube videos, not much about the band or its members can be gleaned from rooting around the etherverse via Google. This almost incognito presence belies, though, the heft and quality of the 5 finely crafted songs this feverish foursome have conjured forth from what must be the murky backstreets and alleyways of London. At least I assume the music was borne from such seedy environs and dingy surroundings, because how else can you explain the sheer weight and magnitude of the five nearly perfectly conceived stoner songs that Steak have laid down on their inaugural release? Music like this surely begins from a place of gloom, a place of despair, someplace deep, dark, and murky, before it is summoned forth and molded by a mixture of talent and hunger into something unique and rare, a dark and deadly treasure of immense and profound value.  

Such is the nature and stature of “Disastronaut”. It contains only 5 songs, but they are that rarest of the rare, songs that can be thought of as pure stoner rock, unadulterated fuzz of the highest order, displaying the absolute best qualities of the sub genre as well as the overarching genre of metal rock. Steak provides the brilliant and signature sound that conveys stoner rock, with  heavy, down tempo, distorted, and LOUD guitars, hard, insistent bass, and the high energy rhythm of the drums, all accentuating melodic song structures chock full of hooks, riffs, and solos of the highest standards.

Steak’s music is reminiscent of many of the best stoner bands, such as Dozer, Firestone, Truckfighters, Cowboys & Aliens, and Astroqueen, to name a few. While their sound isn’t directly reminiscent of stoner rock’s standard bearer, Kyuss, the quality of the melodies, as well as the guitar work are of the same high caliber. But what Steak offer of their own accord, beyond what has been delivered by these great bands, is a blend of the best of the stoner sound but stepped up beyond anything presented heretofore The songs are heavier, louder, with more fuzz and volume, and melody structures that are easily followed, yet never too simplistic or boring. They’ve taken the sound of what they so obviously love, and have added new and improved ingredients to enhance the sustaining power of the entire product.

Stargun Music has released a compilation album of some of the UK’s best stoner/doom/sludge type bands, titled “Sonic Titans”, which includes the track “The Butcher” from Steak. The compilation album, as well as the song “The Butcher”, were reviewed on Heavy Planet this past May to a bit of fanfare. As it turns out, “The Butcher” is the opening track on “Disastronaut” and it exemplifies the very best of the stoner genre. This song could stand alone as a prime example of what the stoner sound should be. It is 4 minutes of sheer bliss, kickstarting the experience with loud, insistence distortion and vocals that provide a high quality aspect. “The Butcher” starts off with a high energy tempo that brilliantly gathers force as it moves through its main chorus of fuzz, leading into a short, down tempo bridge stripped to bare knuckle might, before moving into the closing moments of inspiration where the energy builds and moments of artistic genius can be gleaned.

The second song is titled “Machine”, and if there were a song that might possibly be considered the best track on the album, for me, it’s this one, although you could very well make that same argument for any of the five. “Machine” is a psychedelic fuzz trip through laid bare electricity, and radiation overflow. The guitar work here goes right to the center of the pleasure lobe, accompanied heavily by vocals that are sublime in delivery, entreating the listener to ‘ . . . try and save yourself’, while providing a glorious atmosphere from which no one truly need be saved.

The tempo moves back into a snappier pace for “Gore Whore” and the vocals here are more insistent, providing a fresh perspective on the delivery of the lyrics, accompanying the usual panoply of huge, ferocious guitar and drum work. The solo here is wicked, warbling with aesthetic inspiration.

Number four, “Fall of Lazarus”, is another candidate for best song of the album, deploying an engaging and ever changing landscape of guitar riffs and vocal delivery that take the listener on a splendid journey through the might and muscle of a slow, deliberate beginning delivery that then grows in amplitude and distortion. The journey is full of cool little tidbits of guitar work and enthusiasm from the the rhythm section that can be discovered on every listen through this example of stoner quality and class.

The album closes with “Peyote”, a near sheer departure from the established sound of the initial four songs. This piece is an instrumental and displays none of the standard fuzz and distortion of the stoner sound, but instead uses an almost acoustic milieu to display the artistic wizardry of the musicians of Steak, who adeptly render a quality song, just as before, but in a totally new and refreshing manner that accentuates the quality of the previous songs, the album, and most importantly, the four stoner rock musicians of Steak.

The members of Steak are:

Kippa - Vocals
Cam - Bass
Reece - Guitar
Large - Drums

While Steak is not yet a known commodity, the quality of their work will surely carry them through to heights beyond the perch they now occupy. Their music is as good as any rock music ever made, and they have rendered a collection of songs that are what we’ve always wanted to hear, giving us exactly the music we always hope to find whenever a new discovery of music is made. It is fresh while familiar, artistic yet attainable, rendered with heart, energy, dexterity, and aplomb.

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