MISHKIN – Row Away From The Rocks

This Leeds-based metal influenced outfit have already gained a fair amount of accolades for a DIY band. Regular live shows and sheer hard work eventually scored them support slots with Sepultura, Enter Shikari, hed (p.e.) and the mighty Skindred.  They’d also completed a couple of headlining tours in China.  They already have an EP under their belt, but 2011’s self-released ‘Row Away From The Rocks’ takes things up a notch, with the band getting exposure on the Kerrang! and Scuzz music channels.

At first, there’s a strong feeling this EP is to be a full-on metal fest, since the vocals tear straight out of the speakers before the band are even out of the starting blocks.  But soon, it becomes obvious that beneath the aggressive edges, Mishkin is a band with varying influences and a few more alternative elements lurking within their sound than first impressions would suggest.

The lead track – and single release – ‘Good Day To Die’ packs plenty of hard riffs into four minutes.  The twin guitars of Ali Epstone and Jimmy McGregor adopt an almost groove metal stance, providing a downtuned, relative tunefulness which provides a small amount contrast to the unavoidable heaviness.  While the chugging guitars and double bass drums are the most obvious features – each one competing for your attention – what’s most impressive is the sense of melody constantly bubbling beneath the surface, awaiting its opportunity to escape.  Sure, the verses are given maximum drive via Bradie Nixon’s drumming, but by the time the chorus appears, vocalist Ben Davy really comes into his own.  During the choruses, he moves away from a hardcore shouting style and finds a melodic voice which takes its cue from a more alternative style of hard rock.  In all, an impressive opening track.

‘Waiting For The World To Change’ could, at first, be the work of an entirely different band.  Opening with a gentle musical backdrop, with electronic drum loops and emotive vocals, the style of alternative rock is very much more in the style of ‘Make Yourself’ era Incubus (never a bad thing).  Davy has a real presence – even if there is a hint of auto-tune, maybe – and as the track builds, each of the band members offers something great.  Dave Jackson’s bass is often melodic, but there are moments where he throws in some fantastic rattling bottom end, while both guitarists’ work is more than commendable – particularly noteworthy is the inclusion of a fairly old school guitar solo within such an “alternative” sounding number.  ‘On Your Sleeve’ continues in a similar vein, though perhaps with some heavier riffs in tow.  As with parts of ‘Good Day To Die’, there’s more interesting stuff to be heard beyond the main riffs – in this case, there are multi-layered guitar parts and more old-school solos, while occasional harmony vocals are on hand to add a degree of smoothness.  Unlike the earlier tracks though, this one doesn’t possess so much of a hook.

‘Violation’ is incredibly heavy in places.  Extensive use of double drum pedals and staccato riffing opens the piece at full bore, and as such, it comes as no surprise as to how these guys got to open for Sepultura.  There’s still time for more obvious melodies to creep in during a pre-chorus, but more often than not, it backs away coyly.  While this isn’t likely to appeal to such a wide audience as ‘Waiting For The World’, it’s a great piece of metal, and certainly gives Nixon more of a chance to show off his talents.

Mishkin’s melding of Incubus-style alt-rock and downtuned metal riffing is not always unlike that of Aussie djent band Circles, but there’s often a clearer divide between the metal and alternative grooves. The fact that Mishkin’s work is either rather heavy or alternative would suggest that there are band members insistent on pulling in different musical directions.  This kind of tension can create good music, and while Mishkin have plenty of opportunity to expand on that technique over time, ‘Row Away…’ already sounds like the work of a very accomplished band.

September 2011