Review: Steak ‘Acute Mania’
I picked up a copy of Slab City, Steak’s debut album in about ’15. I immediately dug their raw, fucked-off stoner sound that they’d brought to the table. Like The Stooges deep in the o-mind but bring a fresh hunk of rage to hurl around the room and kick thirteen kinds a green shit out of until it was dead. An impressive album and some slick guest vocals from one John Garcia, whose distinctive pipes are always gonna be welcome at Hacienda El Jefe. Songs like Quaaludes and Interludes and Liquid Gold (I’d hafta take a guess but had assumed it was ‘bout everyone’s fave brekkie drink; tequila!) left nothing to the imagination about the stance of this unit. 2017’s No Go To Save covered similar territory and also got some heavy rotation from me.
So now a few years have now passed, and Steak have recorded a new album. Acute Mania. This one sees a gentler and more introspective side of the band come out to play. The intensity and furious assault is still there, but they throw into the mix some cool psych-rock elements and some of the tunes are a tad more elongated, rather than the earlier ‘fist to the throat’’ style of the band.
So, whilst basking in the glow of an almost full moon shining through my back door (and the soul-warming glow of a solid round 1 victory by the Sydney Swans [my AFL team, with AFL being the one true religion; fuck all y’all Hellsong mofo’s!] in what should be the start of an excellent season!), I began to dissect the upcoming release from Steak titled Acute Mania.
Opening the account with Wolves, we get our first glimpse of the aforementioned gentler and more melodic side to this outfit. Some dirty feedback leads the way to this post-punk vibing song. It’s got the same chunky chords and drive that is pumped through the veins of the earlier material, but (I guess) having ‘matured’ as a band, Steak took the time to stretch their legs and see what transpired. Wolves has a dense heft to the song, and some slinky, liquid guitar lines that have been prevalent throughout their history, married with some funky psych-rock sounds.
Cool sounds, cool delivery, and a winding narrative make this a unique and inventive album…
Dead Meat is a thundering stomp with a relentless Melvins-like riff powering it, and some eerie backing vox from Chantal Brown of Vodun. And personally, I really dig this little crunchfest of a song, in particular the filthy, wah’d-out solo! The brute force and ignorance of Dead Meat also serves to emphasise the almost Joy Division-like Ancestors. Nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and some gentle conga’s slowly slide into the heavily introspective mood. Some punchy drumming that accents the pertinent points of the songs, and lotsa melody shot through from both the vocals and guitar, and clean enough to let the lyrics bleed through, it’s a cool and well-crafted song. Last Days sees more of the same, with more mood and less chaotic riffage being the name of the game.
Dynamics are put to good use in Frequencies. The vocals range from crooning to bellowing in torment. The bass and drums get their own spotlight for much of the song as well, with the drums taking a starring role through the heavy-duty freakout running down the guts of the song and a neat, balls-out chord pattern completes the tune. System is a brooding and heavy-handed creeper, that hints at impending disaster.
At close to nine minutes, Papa’s Special Custard (?!?!) is an experiment in the more spaced-out stoner end of Steak, and at times almost hits on a hard rock version of Pink Floyd. The nylon strings are brought back for the intro to Mono. The 80’s also make a reappearance as do Chantal’s pipes where she sounds like the love child of Kate Bush. Lush and cruisy, Chantal proves to be the icing on the cake with this song.
On the whole, this record is cool and interesting. The vocals are way cleaner than on earlier releases, and a lot of the songs are given room to breathe as well. Cool sounds, cool delivery, and a winding narrative make this a unique and inventive album, and the overall sound completes the picture. I doubt they’ll lose any fans with this, but also reckon it’ll make a strong appearance in the ‘end of year best of’ lists too.
Label: Ripple Music
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: El Jefe