Review: The Heavy, Great Vengeance and Furious Fire
The Heavy’s Great Vengeance and Furious Fire sounds like it creeped out of a twisted and demented alternate reality of blues, soul and R&B. It’s a very strange – and very good – CD. Album opener “Brukpocket’s Lament” is a slow, almost glacial, blues built on a simple two-note descending bass riff with a vocal from another planet. When the vocalist sings “I’m startin’ to talk like I’m mentally ill” you believe him. It’s a dark and disturbing way to start an album and it works brilliantly. The very first song knocks the listener askew, demolishes preconceptions and sets you up perfectly for the set of music that follows.
The Heavy are a five-piece out of Bath, England composed of Dan Taylor (guitars), Kelvin Swaby (vocals), Hannah Collins (keyboards), Chris Ellul (drums) and Spencer Page (bass). Their music is hard to describe. Clearly based in the blues, R&B and soul of times past they often use dirty guitars and clattering percussion and have an uncanny ability to make compelling music based on viscous rhythms that would sound like tedious sludge in the hands of almost any other band. Great Vengeance and Furious Fire is shot through with the static and sound snippets of AM radio stations beamed from no town you’ve ever visited, the scratch and pop of old vinyl LPs and vocals that sometimes sound like they were recorded through a busted amp. It feels like you put the CD in the player and opened a portal to a time and place that sounds like America of the 50’s through the 70’s except much more dangerous. The last song, “Who Needs the Sunshine”, ends with several seconds of vinyl rotation scratch from which a twinkling, skipping piano slowly emerges and a vocal ballader from the late ’50s early ’60s sings “Forever my darling . . .” the first half of a couplet that never completes as the record goes silent. It’s exquisitely creepy.
All of this could sound like a one-off novelty record if The Heavy didn’t do it so well. Their vision is warped but they have a solid grasp of the music they mine for inspiration. Great Vengeance and Furious Fire is very strange but it’s also very good music. I don’t know if it’s the sort of thing everyone will enjoy but I’ll be standing in line at the CD store the day they release their next album.
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