It’s almost grin-inducingly ironic that, in the wake of a debate on this very website about whether or not guitar music is dead, an album should surface that strongly supports that very hypothesis. No Spill Blood’s full-length debut Heavy Electricity also goes a step further and contends that, more specifically, music on the heavier end of the spectrum doesn’t necessarily have any need for the axe, either. That’s quite a bold statement.
From the outset, Heavy Electricity makes that statement in the most emphatic fashion imaginable. The opener ‘White Out’ is likely the hardest-hitting album intro you’ll hear all year, with No Spill Blood’s simple set-up of bass guitar, synth and drum kit delivering a range of hammering, driving, growling riffs, the heaviness of which most bands sporting seven-string guitars would struggle to emulate.
The trio demonstrate very quickly that they aren’t one trick ponies, with second track ‘Back To The Earth’ serving up a perfect change in tempo. The groove is less raucous but just as urgent and the keys take a more prominent and independent role, particularly evident in the swirling arpeggios of the chorus, with the bass taking on more of a support function.
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What is particularly remarkable about both opening tracks, and indeed the whole album, is the vocal stylings of bassist Matt Hedigan. Distorted, distant and menacing (and which in all honesty never really vary in tone or rhythm from song to song in any meaningful way) they nevertheless are the perfect foil for the often chaotic instrumental accompaniment, and are definitely intended to be part of the musical furniture here as opposed to the focus of the band. You get the impression that in any other context they would start to grate incredibly quickly, but that’s not the case here.
The album does have its fair share of weaker moments; ‘El Duurto’ is probably the album’s most uninhibitedly aggressive song, even surpassing ‘White Out’ on the volume front, but it doesn’t possess the craft that the opener does, nor is it as beefy as it could be, and doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. Similarly, ‘Thinner’ starts off brightly but fails to deliver on its promise and sputters along to its conclusion without ever really developing. ‘Sweet Beans’ is anchored by a snarling bass riff at the beginning but begins to feel a bit bloated coming the second half of its six-minute length.
Overall, though, Heavy Electricity and No Spill Blood are worthy of excitement. They’ve developed encouragingly since their 2012 EP Street Meat with a much edgier and darker sound, and you get a sense they’re only beginning to realise the potential of their unusual line-up configuration. The title track is an exquisite instrumental that shows remarkable restraint in its build up without ever spilling over into untameable chaos, while ‘Harsh Route’ and ‘Now II’ are further examples of the diversity these guys can achieve with a seemingly limited instrument base.
Let’s hope No Spill Blood can build on this early promise and help continue to redefine our conceptions of what heavy music could and should be.
THREE AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE
Featured Image credit: Dan Finnegan