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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Review: Kamikaze Test Pilots - ‘Diaspora’ and ‘Into The Sun’

Into The Sun (2008) self released, 22.4 minutes, £4.74
Diaspora (2010) self released, 23 minutes, £4.74

both available on iTunes
It’s not often I encounter a band that grabs me as immediately as Kamikaze Test Pilots: soul, groove, passion, creativity, imagination and musicianship are just oozing out of both these releases and making a mess of my floor.
This is heavy rock, but it’s a rare brand of rock music that is as eclectic in its reach as I am in my tastes. There’s a lot of funky, bluesy, heavy rock riffing, but there are so many other stylistic elements it’s hard to keep count. On Diaspora ‘The Inmates Have Taken Over The Asylum’ has a death metal chorus, complete with blast beat, tremolo picking, and growl vocals, but the solo is a perfectly crafted, inventive twin-lead melody that reminds me of Brian May. ‘Kenny Rogers (With A Shotgun)’, which follows immediately afterwards is built on a rolling, hammered-on country rock riff, with a jew’s harp twanging away contentedly as though it was featured in metal songs all the time. ‘Chikken’ has funky riffs that would sound at home in a RATM song, and a sneering, angry, funny lyric (which I didn’t quite get, but then I rarely do ‘get’ lyrics). ‘Betterway’ is a deeply moving acoustic number that closes the release, an exile’s lament, whose lyrical intent is unmistakeable when you know that two of the four band members are young migrants from Zimbabwe.
The earlier Into The Sun has an opener (‘Abattoir Jazz’) put together with parts cannibalized from a straightahead swinger, while the amazing ‘Kumusha’ mixes its rock riffery with chimurenga style guitar, and several tracks have strongly punk flavoured moments. So how can all this stylistic diversity be tied together into something that sounds like a band? In theory this should all add up to an unlistenable mess; in practice it sounds entirely coherent, because this is a group of musicians simply letting their enthusiasms guide them, and not letting generic labels stand in the way of a good sound. In other words, it’s not at all contrived: if you artificially hatched a plan to put all those sounds together the result would probably be rubbish, but these two releases sound as though they have come about in a very natural, organic way.
Another reason that it all hangs together so convincingly (and so engagingly) is the consistent guitar sound, which while sometimes pretty damn heavy, sticks to a warm, clear, natural overdrive that is capable of responding beautifully to the demands of the band’s smorgasbord of compositional devices, and is very recognisable across both these releases. The same can be said for the deep grooving bass and drums: funky and propulsive, but with the lightness of touch that’s required to cop some of the wide variety of feels they tackle, the band’s engine room has a locked in sound that is very recognisable as its own.
Perhaps the most distinctive element in the sound is the vocal delivery: warm, throaty, powerful and heartfelt, often (along with the lyrical content) sounding angry, but only in the same way we all get pissed off about shit. That doesn’t tell you what’s distinctive about it, I know, but some things just have to be heard. It’s something in the combination of accent, rhythmic phrasing and modulation of timbre, and you should just follow the link to their page and listen (or better yet, go straight to iTunes and buy it).
Despite the melancholy or anger in some of the tracks, (and let’s face it, where would punk and metal be without a good dose of angry?) the overall feel of this music is totally joyful: you can tell from listening that every gig will be a party, and I’m going to see these boys play live the first chance I get.

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