Monday, 29 June 2009

Review: The Quickening - White Blossoms

I've been finding it kind of hard to think of things to write about for this record review. If I was a better (or worse) writer I'd probably do some sort of concept review that features heavy use of terms like 'radical' and 'awesome to the max', as they're the sorts of things that pop into my head when listening to The Quickening's 80's influenced tech-punk / fantasy metal. If I were more versed in this sort of uber-tight punk rock I could probably just focus on the technical aspects with some degree of authority. The fact of the matter is that I'm none of these things, and so I feel somewhat underprepared to discuss this, frankly, quite fantastic record.

A quick bit of background: The Quickening have been around for a few years now, starting off in the same sphere as the similarly impressive Dick Nasty (who helped The Quickening launch this record a month or so back, along with No Anchor and Nova Scotia - one of the best nights of local music I've seen in significant amount of time). However, where Dick Nasty have mostly stuck to a fairly traditional thrashy punk-rock, The Quickening have wandered off into the realms of fantasy metal with a heavy 80s influence, a world of bandanas, near-falsetto singing and blazing guitar solos. In the process they have without a doubt become one of the most fun bands in Brisbane, without crossing the line (or jumping the shark, perhaps) and becoming pastiche.

The technical stuff is likely to be the first thing that hits you about White Blossoms - Bryce Moorhead recorded the album last year, and it's good to hear his recordings getting even bigger and clearer sounding (not that they were necessarily ever small or muddy). The band's musicianship is good enough to be able to withstand such clear production... actually, it's more than merely 'good enough', it's quite frankly pretty astounding at times. The drums are powerful and cracking, the bass is solid, while the two guitars trade impressive riffs and solos over the top of it all. Meanwhile, Chris Farrer's vocals continue to reach higher and higher pitches (although guitarist Matt Bach adds some more traditional punk rock... umm... barks behind him). If you don't find yourself in your bedroom on a Saturday morning, wearing nothing but your underwear and a pair of socks, miming the playing of at least one of these instruments while listening at top volume then I'll eat my sweatband.

All of the songs on White Blossoms careen from one riff to another, changing tempos and moods as the band sees fit. 'Yamaraja's Abode', for example, starts out with a catchy mid-tempo riff before plunging into all manner of intense guitar interplay, culminating in a guitar-god solo before returning to earth with immense group vocals. The whole thing just screams 'EPIC'. Even better are the last two songs: 'The Ballad of Stuart Morley' alternates between fist pumping riffage and almost reflective choruses, while closer 'The Blase Are Kicking Arse' is without a doubt the most over the top song I've ever heard from a Brisbane band. This is not hyperbole, I challenge someone to show me a song that beats it in this respect.

The whole thing just kicks serious arse from start to finish. I can't think of many records that are more fun to listen to that have been released in recent years. I think there's really only one thing left to say...

Hell yeah!

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