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Arthouse Hours

All For One
Glive Records GLV003

St Petersburg is the setting for the last two of the five Michael Caine ‘Harry Palmer’ classic spy films, much loved by your scribe. It’s a city with a history of ups and downs and probably has no equivalent elsewhere in what we know as the former USSR. A blend of influences and unless the films depict the place wrongly, an air of mystery. Not unlike Hongkong perhaps in its upfront business bustle and darker hinterland.

So what would a metal band from St Petersburg sound like ? the arrival of this album gives the answers. The cryptic artwork gives little clue, a palindromic picture that suggests several shapes, faces maybe ? Upside down it looks like an elephant…or maybe a puma. The first cut ‘One’s Rising’ sounds like a spaceship docking to start off then gives way to a swarm of metallic wasps arriving at an edgy tempo, with ethereal vocals implying calm over the squirming time signature and damped fuzzy guitars. The singer is at a pitch between male and female on this number before an anguished ‘grunt’ vocal cuts in @ 2:30 and then angular guitar riffs battle their way against the relentless beat. The drummer sounds in complete control, whether he is or not..well, metal requires the imputation of confidence, always. A most unsettling opener. Feted as ‘progrock’, this is nothing of the kind I can assure you.

‘Heavily assaulted’ has a distorted tremelo’d guitar playing a ponderous chord sequence, before the ensemble blitzes in ; the vocal is banshee-soaked but buried in the mix daring you to make out the words. If you can. The anguish is evident and it could be about mental breakdown. Again the drummer is crisp as a snapped twig and the guitars drenched in sophisticated fuzztones and overdriven grit. The singer is passionate but – call me old skule – indistinct in his lyrical presentation for me, maybe I’m not the target audience for this material. Bear in mind I have seen far more rock and metal groups than most of you ever will, so noise never puts me off. I just prefer some outfits to others.

By cut 4 ‘Like This’ the sound is full-on frantic and very well-executed. They sound absolutely committed.  ‘Away’ has another faux-naif arpeggio chordal start and the vocal is not drowned out. This is more like it !! Sinister riffing kept in some kind of check and a sly melody creeping through. Easily the best number here and haunting, even when it sidesteps into a spiky passage with drumming of thunderous intensity. They sound a very troubled band indeed, angry at life or feeling trapped. Who knows ?  No cosy anthems to sing along to here, folks – the tunnel of sound captured here suggests the Australian wonder band The Church stripped of their rusted-metal tunefulness and topped up with despair. Or if you played the mighty Groundhogs ‘Split’ which explores the same theme of mental disorientation at much faster speed, might it sound like this….?

Closer ‘One’s Quitting’ might predict our Queen’s abdication ? No, just kidding. It’s even bleaker than most of the tracks here, with a growling grunt vocal lurking in the background. The drumming sounds almost relaxed – well, for this bloke, anyway  -

Arthouse Hours are intense, driving and on this set, laden down with self-loathing and despair, angry to get somewhere better. Whatever that might constitute to them. Full marks for commitment.  But not what this writer would seek out to listen to. A great item to present to Fair Hearing – thank you, Jay

Pete Sargeant

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