Every now and then, and very much in spite of my better judgement, I find myself really enjoying a groove metal album. The latest instance of this serial lapsing has been facilitated by Bavarian metalheads Smoke the Sky.
Their new album, The Human Maze, is essentially groove lite – it’s almost as if they enjoy the idea of this type of music more than the actual result – though that might be as much to do with the amount of cash the band had to spend on the record’s production as anything more sinister.
The band never commits to full-groove, preferring to skirt around the edges with a sort of Pantera–Metallica–Black Label hybrid that really isn’t as horrible as that descriptor suggests.
Mephisto brings a bit of Alice in Chains to the mix and is probably the most appealing track here on first listen – it’s certainly the most immediate.
Skysucker Inc opens with some nice bass and a heavy if somewhat predictable riff, but it’s just not massive enough to live with the real heavy hitters of this genre. Everything is performed well enough, but that X-Factor is definitely absent without leave.
The band give a full-on tribute to the Cowboys From Hell album on The Engineers, which is another of my fave tracks, replete as it is with rampant pinch harmonics and creepy Anselmo-styled talk singing. It’s basically pastiche, but somehow it works. To my ears anyway.
This formula is then repeated with varying degrees of success throughout the rest of the record. It’s Human is a bit overlong, as is the thrashier Raw is the Law, which adds a little modern Anthrax stylings to proceedings, but more focussed attempts like Frankinsmoke and Iron Sun really do hit the spot and encourage further listening.
These boys clearly have some chops – if they can weave some originality into their sonic tapestries then they might emerge as surprise contenders – let’s hope so!
Smoke the Sky will release The Human Maze on July 13th.