Music Reviews
The Guillotine

Hey Colossus The Guillotine

(Rocket Recordings) Rating - 9/10

Albini-level sonic tumult can make a compelling case by itself with or without a song’s lyrical intent.  And if said tumult offends?  Well, you were likely its target.  As the tilted and persistent rhythm of Back in the Room exhibits well Neu!’s belief in listener immersion through repetition, Hey Colossus, the noise-oriented rock unit responsible for the battery being addressed, also revel in the perverted evangelistic tone of The Jesus Lizard.  An attack on the senses?  Only if you’re the target.  The Guillotine, latest LP and third Hey Colossus release for Rocket Recordings, is an eight-song trove of volume, emotional density, and social critique, its commonalities with sounds cultivated by labels like Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile not so much evidentiary of retread as they are respectful and refreshing pulls from an era of dissonant rock plentitude.

Introduced by the red herring string play of Honest To God, a song I’ll admit had me believing momentarily that I’d be hearing an upbeat little ditty meant to set me mentally adrift in the ecstasy of a sun-drenched day, The Guillotine’s thoughtfully penned commentaries are delivered with an impressive weight and equally impactful commingling of guitar interaction.  The album’s notable heft garners most of the attention at first listen, but further dives into the material reveal the arrangements at work.  This is especially true of Experts Toll, whose marriage of riffed distortion and delicate melodies became more apparent as the listens are piled on, a structure and sound evocative of the more distinct guitar-centric nuance of a band like Mission Of Burma though enhanced with the elaborate authorship of the band’s trio of guitarists, Timothy Farthing, Roo Farthing, and Robert Davis. 

And for the record, Honest To God isn’t upbeat: once the low end appears and the track’s slow and determined pace is established, things get real dark, real quick.  There’s a shock of enveloping sound, a viscous, doom-laden distorto-swamp akin to that of the Melvins that I hadn’t expected along with an intensified vocal from singer Paul Sykes once the hook drops in. 

Calenture Boy is set to a despondent sway, guitar notes adorned with touches of the ethereal as Sykes asks, “How do you people put up with yourself?,” the question posed against the song’s suggested backdrop of ignorance leading to ruin.  With some lovely backing vocals from Elisa Thompson, Calenture Boy stays with you, its thematic melody and emotional resonance playing in your head long after the song is complete.  The similarly positioned and opiate concerned Potions dials up the amplifier, piano notes emerge through an ambient soundscape that clears once Joe Thompson strikes a bass note.

Englishman is the satirical cut, delivered with the perfect amount of caustic wit over rock-ist rhythmic throbs.  “Hear the one about the Englishman?/Held together by a string and tin cans?," the hook begins, Sykes’s dryly sung observations comprising what would be the album’s most conservative offering, which is both sensible and kind of brilliant.  The track points to nationalism as a means of refusal to grow noting how certain attitudes become useless and obsolete: “Up the middle of the skittish isles/Collecting stories for a new witch trial/He was wild, young, loved and free/Whatever happened to his old country?”  For all the seriousness with which much of The Guillotine runs abundant, the biting humor of Englishman provides somewhat of a respite. 

Following the persistent chug of In A Collision, the title track is the mood piece this album deserves, a solemn bass riff and resigned pace driving an otherwise tension-addled 7 and a half-minutes that collapses into an echoing, dissonant maelstrom of intersecting howls and feedback, a suitable end to noise rock excellence. [Believe the Hype]