Review: Island Apes ‘Island Apes’

If my internet searches are to be believed, the phrase ‘Island Apes’ originated in Germany, and was meant to be a derogatory term directed at English football supporters. I certainly didn’t know any of this as I was doing my homework on the band Island Apes, who are poised to drop their self-titled debut on God Unknown Records.

Island Apes 'Island Apes' Artwork
Island Apes ‘Island Apes’ Artwork

I thought the band’s name was cool, and after reading up on them, and the term, I found their choice in name to be all at once funny, ironic and self-deprecating. Island Apes evidently formed in 2018 and consist of some heavy hitters in the UK sludge, and noise scene, such as vocalist MKJ formerly of Force Fed, and bassist David Riley who was in ‘90s UK legends Fudge Tunnel. Drummer Antronhy was apparently the dancer at Nirvana’s famous Reading performance, while guitarist/engineer Dean Selby is an established underground music veteran throughout the UK.

Island Apes is a record with many different moods and sounds happening, sometimes within the same track. Opener Hellsailor is a riffy, chunky, distorted, heavy psych freak out anchored by Riley’s rumbling bass, as well as some catchy chorus action that serves the music well. First single Stitt, whilst staying in the distorted psych realm, reminds me of Mike Patton’s band Tomahak, certainly the driving rhythm and the guitar attack from Selby. Vocalist MKJ, while getting plenty weird, doesn’t possess a fraction of Patton’s range, that’s OK though, not many people do, but this song is certainly a standout on the album, and I can see why the band chose it as the first single.

Island Apes get extra weird on Kobaian , which is another riffy, rhythmic mindfuck, especially the robotic, effects-drenched vocals, but again, the approach reminds me of a Patton’s Tomahawk, and once more, Shelby’s guitar playing is a highlight. In what turned out to be one of the cooler tracks on Island Apes, the instrumental trip-out Oceans Of Dub is amazing on many levels. First, it serves as an aural palette cleanser, as well as an intermission from the heavy psych attack, that is perfectly sequenced at the albums halfway point. Secondly, musically it’s simply a really cool instrumental, and one doesn’t always hear dub-freak outs on albums by heavier, guitar-oriented bands.

We get back to some driving, yet spacey rock and roll with Carrie, but lest the listener think Island Apes are gonna fall back to the sonics displayed earlier on the record, the band go into a full-on, psychedelic mind warp to bring the song to a close. Elsewhere, RDEH44 displays more rock-solid bass work, trippy vocals, some great single note guitar playing and a hint of saxophone, all the while the mood is slightly more mellow, as well as a bit melancholy. The penultimate Leah is an epic, rhythmic, psych-drenched, mind-bender featuring some well-placed synth flourishes, while closer Sailhailer is another instrumental that serves as the sonic equivalent of the sun rising after a long, dark evening, and it wraps up their self-titled debut perfectly.

Island Apes is a unique, trippy, sometimes heavy, record, that calls up the up the best of modern heavy psych, reminding me at times of bands like Loop and Comets on Fire, as well as the aforementioned Tomahawk. I enjoyed this record quite a bit, and I can see myself reaching for it late at night while working on my artwork. If you’re in the mood for some heavy psych, Island Apes will more than scratch that itch. Recommended.

Label: God Unknown Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams