Sometimes when reviewing a new record, or just listening for my own audio fix, I can tell within a few minutes or after a few songs if the record is going to be an instant banger. Then on other records, its only after repeated listens that one winds up loving it and worshiping at its altar. A ‘grower’ as it were.
No growers here as London’s Butcher In The Fog (excellent name for a London band for obvious reasons, in retrospect, it’s kind of amazing this name, or some variation of it hadn’t been taken before now) have dropped an instant banger with their third record Exonerate Me, Baby. It doesn’t take long to recognize the instant impact as the opening grimy, punk-ish riff of 3rd Strike (Fool’s Errand) blows the doors open right out of the gate. Guitarist/vocalist Yanni Georgiou’s angry, distorted shouts meld perfectly with his riffing, and noise-ish lead work layered throughout over a driving rhythm offered up by drummer Alex De La Cour and, lest he be forgotten, bassist Allan Skjönsbergand make his presence felt at the midway point when he drops an awesome bass line as the band weaves in between the main riff, and a more psychedelic breakdown.
Wasting no momentum, Russian Brides instantly dives into more driving, killer riffing, and despite the distortion, and aggressive delivery Georgiou’s vocals are pretty catchy. Again, the band takes a detour in to a more swirling, almost prog-y breakdown, that carries to the end of the song. Two songs in, and this record had me hooked. Swamp Of Delusion keeps the foot on the gas, the band dropping to a nice gallop, and more catchy riffage throughout, including a nice thrashy chug, before again descending into more swirling territory on the way out.
Butcher In The Fog excel at this dynamic throughout Exonerate Me, Baby. Each song seems to go in many different directions, many different detours, all of them timed brilliantly. Georgiou’s guitar playing is notable, both for his riffing, and his lead work, not to mention the more melodic twinkling he periodically sprinkles over the songs.
This was my first experience with Butcher In The Fog, and apparently I’ve found a band that’s produced an instant rager…
Man Adrift is an awesome change of pace. Skjönsberg offers a crawling, doomy bass line to open the song, while Georgiou changes up his vocals, singing cleaner to really open the song up and give it some space. The sequencing of this track is an excellent sonic palette cleanser after the first three ragers. De La Cour and Skjönsberg lock into a nice mid-tempo rhythm, as Georgiou again displays his guitar skills. The entire instrumental outro is excellent and is a centerpiece of the record.
The title track Exonerate Me, Baby gets the tempo going again as De La Cour’s drum roll intro instantly conjures up High on Fire’s Devilution off Blessed Black Wings. Georgiou again offers some pretty sick lead work, and some excellent mid-song riffage. Exonerate Me, Baby closes with back-to-back two-fisted pounders. Auditory Hallucinations/Quicksand is a total thrash-punk chugger reminiscent of Inferno-era Motörhead, or early aughts Raging Speedhorn. A highlight for me. Portrait Of A Nightmare offers up a similar aggressive vibe, but again towards the mid-section descends into a melodic detour, before bouncing back into the main riff. Whew.
Exonerate Me, Baby was an enjoyable listen on many levels. The band really excel at switching gears, going from aggressive, punk-thrash riffing into a psychedelic, Crack The Skye-era Mastodon vibe, before re-emerging with the riff, all without feeling jarring. These all feel like natural musical detours, not forced, and all three band members excel at their respective instruments, with Georgiou’s guitar playing being of particular note. His vocals reminding me a bit of Chris Spencer’s from legendary New York noise-punk overlords Unsane is an added bonus.
This was my first experience with Butcher In The Fog, and apparently I’ve found a band that’s produced an instant rager. Time to go dive into the back catalog.
Scribed by: Martin Williams