I don’t know about the rest of you, but I like a good old twiddle. Now, I know this is a site primarily concerned with monolithic, primal riffs the size of tower-blocks and bellowing gentlemen with beards like rhododendron bushes, but we’re taking a temporary detour from all of that and diving straight into the heart of twiddle city with Atlanta, Georgia’s – mostly – instrumental avant-metal triumvirate Lazer/Wulf.
If the thought of bands like Behold! The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia or the techier end of Mastodon fills you with dread, I’d advise that you leave the hall at this juncture as The Beast Of Left And Right is a tumultuous array of frantically fingered guitar, jagged jazzy chordings, busy burbling bass and diabolically detonated drums, devised and delivered by itinerant interdimensional intelligences or crystalline cyborg creatures. Or something.
Brought to us courtesy of Retro Futurist, a new label belonging to fellow Georgians Kylesa, The Beast Of Left And Right is not only Lazer/Wulf‘s first full-length recording but also, apparently, the first ever palindromic album.
Yes, the band claim that the album was created as a palindrome, with songs mirroring each other as backwards versions, with the track Beast Reality functioning as the centre piece. However, considering there are eight tracks on the album and Beast Reality is the fifth, we’re actually a little lopsided, numbers-wise, and I suspect it will take a good deal of close listening to fathom the validity of the claim, but is most immediately apparent during the opening and closing tunes, as you would expect. Nevertheless, it’s a bold and intriguing idea and one that is just sssooooo Prog.
With nary a faff around, Choose Again (Right Path) launches us straight into a maelstrom of tumbling, spiralling drums, thrumming bass and guitars that move between circling astringent chimes, elastic hammer-ons and urgent, violent shredding – not unlike Tool with a rocket up their collective jacksie. As the track progresses, the rhythms ebb, flow and tighten like a noose and a half-submerged vocal line appears beneath the blowtorch guitars for what seems like a fleeting minute or so before receding beneath the frantic musical interplay.
Vocals, in fact, surface occasionally across the whole album but should be considered as simply another texture in the melting pot of tonal treats that makes up the overall sound of The Beast Of Left And Right, as opposed to a major focal point. They vary between the straight singing and quiet crooning of Choose Again (Right Path), the throaty chants of Beast Reality and the semi-operatic Magma-esque style heard on Concentric Eyes, with occasional spoken interludes, but for the most part put me in mind of Mike Vennart’s excellent vocals in the late, lamented Oceasnsize – albeit mixed much further down.
Whilst not as bat-shit insane and intense as fellow power-trio Behold! The Arctopus, Lazer/Wulf still pack a fuck of a lot of musical information into eight tracks, for the most part hitting the sweet spot between Mastodon and The Mars Volta, with nods to a more vicious, AD/HD-ridden take on Russian Circles and definite flashes of the granddaddies of ’em all, Rush – notably during second track Lagarto and the Alex Lifeson-tastic Concentric Eyes.
Between them, drummer Brad Rice, guitarist Bryan Aiken and bassist Sean Peiffer have created a musically complex, dense masterpiece of speedy progressive metal that easily skirts the self-indulgence factor and just goes full-tilt into FUUUUUUUCK territory. The relentlessly shifting meters, clashing gnarly chords, fretboard gymnastics and killer riffs really help to push Lazer/Wulf to the front of the tech/Prog queue – a genre that is rife with copycats and those with ability but little inspiration right now – where they can comfortably sit alongside fellow monsters of shred Animals As Leaders and other afore-mentioned contemporaries. Unless, of course, you don’t like the tech, in which case it will all just sound like someone chucking a drumkit through an amusement arcade. Which I would also buy.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson