Beehoover – The Devil and His Footmen (Exile on Mainstream, 30 September 2013)
Beehoover – Primitive Powers (UnUnDeux, 26 February 2016)
Hey, good afternoon, music fans! Did you know that this website is now in its fifth year of existence? Technically its fifth birthday will be coming up later this year, but I just thought it was interesting to think about that. That might be partly why I’ve been covering quite a few older releases over the past weeks, trying to get some stuff written about and shared with you that I’ve been listening to and meaning to write about for a long time: reaching (or approaching) that sort of milestone can make you do a lot of reflecting back, while also trying to stay on top of what’s happening currently and looking ahead to what’s next.
Anyway, that’s kind of a roundabout way of introducing today’s topic, which will be hitting a bit of each of those things, since I’ll be covering a pair of albums by German bass/drums/vocals duo Beehoover — one which came out in late 2013 (and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying, and intending to get a chance to write about, since around that time), and a brand-new one (that I feel confident you’ll enjoy just as much) which will officially hit the store shelves (metaphorically speaking) tomorrow!
Playing a combination of stoner/grunge metal that leans slightly in a progressive direction with just two members leaves bassist Ingmar Petersen to cover the roles traditionally filled by one or more guitars PLUS the bass, which he quite capably does — combining complex layers of chords and moving basslines, which are sometimes fuzzy and distorty but also sometimes rather melodic and fluid. I’d compare the sound to some other bands where the bass and guitar don’t necessarily follow the rules of which part is supposed to be performed by which instrument, although I’d be inclined to describe Petersen as more Chancellor than Jones, but more LaLonde than Claypool. Hopefully that make sense to somebody out there. Looking at Beehoover as a whole, essentially the most succinct way I could explain them to you is, if Buzz Osborne‘s primary instrument were bass instead of guitar, and the Melvins had avoided working with an ever-rotating cast of members in favor of Osborne and Crover performing as a bass-and-drums two-piece, what you are imagining right now is exactly what Beehoover sound like.
The 2013 album The Devil and His Footmen — their fifth release overall — opens with a song called “Monolith,” immediately showing off the complex blend of parts that will highlight most of the forty-six minutes that will follow (over the span of eleven tracks, three of which are shorter — around a minute or two long — interludes that consist mostly of ambient sounds and mellow instrumental bits). The other tracks here generally fall into the realms of stoner rock or grunge metal, as I mentioned before, with those nearest the end of the album (the last three) tipping the scale further in the direction of “metal,” as each of these songs tend to become a little heavier at some point, with yelled/growled vocals making appearances, for a change of pace. Speaking of changing, I also had mentioned the band showing a bit of a progressive side as well; the best of examples of this can be found in the album’s two longest songs, “Rooftop” which contains a few contrasting sections, becoming quite a bit introspective and mellow for a time before returning to its main riff, and closing track “Honeyhole” which takes a few minutes to slowly build before either drums or vocals even enter, and several more minutes still before the heaviness factor really kicks in.
Primitive Powers, the 2016 follow-up, generally has a similar vibe to its predecessor, although at times the songs feel like they have just a little more “groove” to them, and backing vocals seem to make an appearance a bit more often too. With eight tracks running forty-two minutes, the average song length is just slightly higher here, but also there are no interludes to bring that average down. Elements of progressiveness (which IS a real word, by the way — I looked it up before I wrote it here, and I was just as surprised as you) also pop up in various places here: for instance, one of the longer songs “Millwheels of Being” starts out with a very “Lateralus” (the song) vibe, especially in the sound and style of Claus-Peter Hamisch‘s drumming. Elsewhere — like the slower, mellower final track “My Artillery” which at eight minutes is the longest song here, “Anti Zooo,” and “Bombs & Bagpipes” — the band not only displays progressive tendencies, but (in a departure from much of the rest of their material where it often feels like the sound the words make can be at least as important as the message being conveyed) they delve into story-telling mode. In the last of these (that is, the last that I mentioned, which is actually second on the album), for example, the lyrics seem to tell the tale of a brave piper leading soldiers into battle.
The Devil and His Footmen can be purchased from Exile on Mainstream Records in CD, LP, or digital format. Primitive Powers will be available on CD (26 February) or LP (08 April) through UnUnDeux Records, or in digital format (26 February) from Bandcamp.
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