The first thirty five minutes of King Locust’s 2010 release ‘Musk’ uses downtuned riffs for maximum impact.  While the core of their sound borrows from a lot of nineties grunge and alternative music, there are a few later influences – namely a few post-hardcore ones – cutting through their best songs.  It’s true there’s more than a hint of Alice In Chains scattered throughout this album, but as it progresses, it becomes obvious there’s far more to this band’s take on nineties revivalism than just recycling a few old fashioned grunge riffs.  Some of the end results may not always be entirely original – such is the nature of any kind of revivalism – but ‘Musk’s first half results in an incredible level of heaviness.

One obvious standout, ‘Sand’, comes loaded with a huge swaggering riff, hugely weighty but never totally leaden.  Imagine ‘Dirt’ era Alice In Chains with a huge Melvins-style echo on the drum kit and you’ll have some idea of where King Locust are coming from.  There aren’t any overtly catchy hooks to be had, but to be fair, the weight behind the riff is everything.  To begin with, ‘Mea Culpa’ hints at a lighter and fuzzier mood briefly, but beyond the intro, the riff takes on a slow and fairly uncompromising tone.  While this dominates most of the four minutes, the first verse offers a contrast with a more alternative approach, and an atmospheric vocal which sounds like a Dutch Travis Meeks.  No such luxury for the second verse, however, where King Locust favour another heavy riff to back up a dual vocal: one voice adopting a metallic growl, while the other indulges in unsettling shouting.  It’s hard not to be reminded – at least in passing – of alternative metallers Craw with their brand of Helmet meets Tool ugliness.

By the time the sledgehammer ‘Guesthouse’ hits its stride, it’s surprising how strong King Locust’s riffs are.  While the verses still have a grunge edge, any earlier Alice In Chains-isms seem safe in comparison.  Once again, looking beyond the grungier moments, the heavy end on the chorus showcases more of a Page Hamilton/Helmet approach, as the riffs take on more post-hardcore intensity.  The guitars cranked to eleven meshing with an unsubtle drum line and a shouted vocal of “smash my head against the wall” shows King Locust at their most intense and uncompromising best.  Bringing the first half of the album to a thunderous close, ‘So Lonely’ stokes up the bottom end yet again, and as such, all guitar work takes on a mantle which would challenge ‘Blues For The Red Sun’ era Kyuss. While that brings a certain stoner and doom-like pace, beyond that, King Locust are still firmly within the grunge camp as opposed to stoner rock.  This is cemented by slightly nasal vocals – given extra weight by a harmony voice – which, when combined, makes no secret of King Locust’s love of early Alice In Chains yet again.  Still, there’s precious little wrong with having such a seminal influence.

Just when you think you’ve heard all their tricks, by the midpoint, King Locust don a very different musical hat, for ‘Musk’ is very much a disc of two halves.  The second half brings a bunch of experimental – and often acoustic based – instrumentals which sound like the bastard offspring of the Alice In Chains ‘Unplugged’ album colliding Sonic Youth’s experimental collages.

It goes without saying that the first half of the disc comes with the broadest appeal with regard to everyday listening.  The second half is still enjoyable in its own right, since the downtuned acoustic guitars and percussive arrangements make for some interesting, alternative late night musical backdrops.  The semi-wandering nature of the eight untitled instrumentals provides an excellent contrast to the band’s noisiest tendencies.  While King Locust are a great “all out” heavy riffing outfit, there’s someone within the ranks pushing their musical boundaries, occasionally achieving results which are just as interesting in their own way.  The closing piece, in particular, makes an instantly good impression by combining a Led Zeppelin rooted riff with a downtuned edge, and then pitching that against a much cleaner rhythm.  It’s more direct than most of King Locust’s instrumental works, it must be said, but it purposely brings the disc a slightly more upbeat finish.

King Locust twists their love of Alice In Chains and other classic grunge-based influences into something a little darker than most of their predecessors on occasion, thanks to an equal love of a lot post-grunge metal-based acts.  The bottom line is – in terms of nineties revivalism, at least – ‘Musk’ is more than enjoyable enough…especially when cranked through a decent set of speakers.

This rather split personality disc is being offered on a “pay what you want” basis, which can be obtained from the widget below.

December 2011