Written by: Volt Thrower
“In the novel, Frankenstein's creation is identified by words such as 'creature,' 'monster,' 'daemon,' 'wretch,' 'fiend' and 'it.'” Thanks, Wikipedia, for describing this album cover so that I don't have to. I know these guys don't take themselves too seriously, and I mean no disrespect to the artist, who upon a cursory search has some really nice artwork, but this is just too cheesy. Maybe I'm just a lame grouch, taking it too seriously. And I get that they're going for the old school sci-fi horror covers look, which are usually cheesy, but just slapping the antagonist of each song onto the cover, feels like a bit of a blunder. Let’s hope that the tunes are out of this world.
The album itself is a bit of a mishmash of songs, a new tune in the album opener and title track, two reworked songs from their 2017 demo For God Snakes, and a couple other tracks that the band has had in their back pocket for a while, giving them a little modern touch.
These Chicago-based fuzzers kick things off with a hip-shaker of a groove, interlacing the opening riff with a theremin sounding guitar effect, really giving things an “Extraterrestrial” vibe. The band's newest track, one seemingly written for the live stage, really has me yearning for a live show now. Less than 90 seconds in and I'm up on the couch shouting Extraterrestrial! at the damn bose speakers. An apocalyptic banger, the tin-foil hat tale of young bassist Billy boy Sullivan being abducted while out walking his dog. Already a highlight before the ending breakdown, which somehow manages to namedrop Clutch, the Misfits, Commander Hadfield singing Bowie on the ISS, plus other influential songwriters without coming across tacky. Instead wrapping it into this angry little tribute to space music, self-aware about how it doesn't matter because the world is burning down at mach 5. It's all a little bit too relevant and on the nose, but damn good entertainment.
Following up a future live hit with one of the bands past live staples is a great way to start out an album. Doing so with a re-worked track off the 2017 demo in “Disco Frankenstein.” As if the optics of a chainsaw-for-hands Frankenstein wasn't enough, they gave him some nasty boogie fever, and now he's on the hunt at the local discotheque. A fresh injection of organ from guest keyboardist Chris Walsh, combined with the most ear-wormy chorus of 2020, makes this song really stand out, and as a result has been trapped in my head for days now.
It's not that the remaining three tracks aren't good, but they just don't quite reach the highs that the first two songs hit. They have a nice, moody bluesy tribute to singer-songwriter John Prine, in “In Shadows.” The second tune to get modernized from the 2017 demo is “Panther Slide," hearing the theremin sound return is nice, but the kitty lives on in ol’ franks shadow. The hard hitting “Wolf Spider” draws everything to a close, but doesn't quite sink a fang in with anything truly unforgettable, in contrast with its bookend partner and title track.
All things considered, I reckon the thunder has been brought. I'd argue though that this has the feel of an EP rather than a full length album, due to the compilation feel from mixing in older tracks with newer stuff. The collage style artwork puts some more fuel on that fire. It never really creates any overarching story or true sense of cohesion. But, what it does show is a huge step forward from even just last summer's Hound, let alone their demo. More technical prowess and experimentation with instruments and sounds, and a honed focus on a production style to best suit their needs, shows huge promise. The self described hyper-active band surely won't be resting on their laurels, I imagine The Hÿss have got bigger and grander ideas coming up the pipe and I can't wait to hear what's in store.
The Hÿss - Extraterrestrial was released April 20th, 2020
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!