Review: Whoarfrost – Whoarfrost (Engine, 2011)
Posted on April 21, 2011 by Ascetist
This Baltimore trio of “noise / freejazz / freakout” enthusiasts seem to be playing live for the duration of this recording. it’s enthusiastically technical and tightly played. The meshing of drums, guitars, bass and vocals is quite seamless – there’s nothing that rubs up against anything that creates the tensions you’d expect from “free” jazz. These chaps have worked hard together, and musically it shows.
In terms of structure, this band is no Painkiller – I was reminded of The Locust more frequently than not. The drumming is busy (at points Bill Bruford’s work with early King Crimson seems an influence), the bass locks the groove and the guitarist leans over and triggers his effects pedals for a solo that may aspire to jazz, but to these ears is still pretty firmly grounded in the “rock”idiom. There is a uk term, namely “fretwankery” where the guitarist just goes for the solo and stays there, making us marvel at their technique – to the detriment of everything else. There’s a bit of that on display here.
However they’re all still songs – “No Self” is actually quite a pretty tune and the one track that most clearly displays a shift in tempo to something that could be termed “jazzcore”. Its also the only one where the vocalist is singing, rather than shouting above the music. That’s not a criticism, by the way.The music played demands that method of delivery.
If there is a criticism, it’s merely that these are good musicians (as always) revelling in technique, but not really bringing anything new to the table. In tempo and tone, there’s not a great variation from one track to another.
The band attempt to stretch out a little with the last track “Concious Without Function” but by the end they’re back at metal central with the vocalist exhorting us to ‘take back the universe” and the guitarist soloing in the same manner he has done on the previous tracks until it all, eventually, winds down.
Nothing caught me unaware on this release. There was little in the way of surprise. They’re all good musicians with well-honed techniques, of that there’s no doubt, but there was little in the way of arrangement or texture shifts in this recording that can wrongfoot the listener. When a band cites “jazz” as an influence, you can’t help but long for a bit more daring than what’s on display here.