II.II.II – A Conundrum On My Coffee Table EP

II.II.IIIn 2011, UK alternative metal band Mishkin released their debut EP ‘Row Away From The Rocks’.  Featuring some hefty guitar riffs and an impassioned vocal, the EP pointed the way towards great things in the future…and then the band broke up.  Mishkin’s vocalist Ben Davy subsequently joined art rock band II.II.II (aka 222), a band formed alongside his old bandmate Will MacGregor on bass.  222 pits their musical aptitude against ex-Tangaroa members Matt ‘Baldi’ Baldwinson and Si Blakelock on guitar and drums respectively.   The combination of talents from the two bands makes for a very tight – if a little scary – alternative/mathcore outfit.

Aside from sharing members, listeners should not look for too many Mishkin similarities within the framework of 222’s musical experiments.  Gone are most of the accessible edges; instead, everything is jazzy, angular, challenging.  This quartet have previously been praised for pulling a wide range of influences together, from Mike Patton, Faith No More and Dog Fashion Disco.  Is it possible that whoever claimed that to be a broad range was taking the piss?  As anyone who’s ever heard Dog Fashion Disco will know, for most of their career, that band churned out tunes hugely comparable to ‘King For a Day’ era Faith No More.  So, essentially, 222 channel sounds from three variants of Faith No More…and based on the six pieces of music on ‘A Conundrum’, that’s about right.

Right from the start, there’s no easy ride here, as the band throw everything into a musical frenzy, with the chunky stop-start nature of ‘Dog’s Lost His Bone’ strongly influenced by latter day Faith No More, retooled into a gleeful ugliness by Mike Patton in a particularly difficult mood.  Davy’s voice growls and yelps, interspersed by multi-tracked vocals which mumble –occasionally incoherently – while Baldi lays down some rather severe jazz-rock/math metal tones, his playing sharp throughout.  It’s technically brilliant, but like ‘Disco Volante’ by Mr. Bungle, also hugely uncompromising.  During ‘HITPWYGWYDIYL’ things level out slightly.  Instead of pummelling the listener with sharp edges, the band threatens with a meaty chug, with Davy’s voice lowering itself appropriately.  The closest 222 comes to a straight ahead piece of rock music, Si Blakelock hammers out a slow beat, but even this as has a disquieting mood, with the band eventually falling into math metal fills.  Pulling the tune to a close, there’s a push and pull between atonal clanking and sharp stops, while Davy pushes his voice to extremes with a guttural, throaty snarl.  If you don’t get what 222 are attempting to do by the end of this second number, it’s probably time to stop listening and go elsewhere to find your hummable ditties.

In under three minutes, ‘No Condition’ brings more twists than some bands manage in an entire release.  Melodic death metal growling and cleaner vocals top progressive metal stops and jazz fusion guitar runs a la fellow UK tech-metallers Wot Gorilla?; although the jazz tones lack Matthew Haigh’s sense of finesse, they work perfectly once Davy settles more for his beloved Mike Patton-isms.  On the three remaining numbers, all pretence of mixing genres and styles goes out of the window and 222 offer a more than credible homage to Mr. Bungle with a mix of angular riffing and more off-kilter yelping.  Still, when a band has worked so hard to emulate their heroes so effectively, kudos must certainly be given…and especially when the results are so professional.   Nearing a hardcore jazz/Zappa-esque complexity, the arrangements within ‘The Key To Denial’ in particular are so meticulously tight in their chaotic and spasmodic approach, it’s obvious that this band has one of the best rhythm sections in the north of England.

Since any new material from Faith No More appears unlikely and Mr. Bungle have been long rested, just maybe 222 will fill a gap in your twisted listening (dis)pleasures.  At a time when Mushroomhead appear to have lost the traces of Faith No More in the sound that originally made them interesting and Dog Fashion Disco have been put to sleep, this band may offer salvation.  Even if followers of Mike Patton’s many projects think 222’s works veer just a little too close to those of their hero at times, these tunes ought to raise a wry and knowing smile at the very least.

May 2013