Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Crobot - Something Supernatural album review

If you had to sum up Crobot's debut album Something Supernatural in one word, that word would be "bombastic".  It's a lot like the musical equivalent of grabbing an electric fence, only fun.

This hard rock outfit essentially combines the swagger and bluesy groove of early Aerosmith with Audioslave-sized riffs, and even a dash of funk.  To be fair though, these guys sound genuinely different and unique - and not like they're trying a 70's revivalist thing in the vein of Wolfmother or Graveyard, thanks to some tight and original songwriting which seems to pack an enormous amount of material into even a 3-minute track.  And crucially, they exude the same sense of irreverent enthusiasm that can be heard on personal favourites like Rose Hill Drive's Americana and the Queens of the Stone Age classic, Songs for the Deaf.

Musically Crobot are certainly something to behold.  The rhythm section, brothers Paul and Jake Figueroa, lay down excellent grooves throughout the album, and provide an ideal platform for guitarist Chris Bishop (think some sort of crazy Tom Morello / Jack White hybrid) and vocalist Brandon Yeagley (very much in the vein of Myles Kennedy) to do some pretty awesome things.  And I'm sure it probably helped having Machine (Clutch, Lamb of God, etc.) at the helm producing the album - how Crobot pulled that off on their debut record is either an enormous fluke or a very serious reflection on the potential of this band.

The same could be said of the album itself because it's one of the best debut records I've heard in a long time, from the opening feedback wash of Legend of the Spaceborne Killer through to the ominous, weighty closing chords of Queen of the Light.  

Nowhere to Hide is a pretty decent microcosm of the album itself - you get a stupidly groovy opening lick, then a mix of bluesy guitar wails and palm-muted crunch before the chorus provides the space for vocalist Yeagley to really let rip.  And then there's an obscenely cool guitar solo from Chris Bishop which actually showcases the rhythm section just as well as the soloist.  And all this in barely 3 minutes!

The longer tracks like La Mano De Lucifer and Queen of the Light highlight just where Crobot could go in future, with the extra length of these tracks really giving the band a bit more space to demonstrate their considerable chops.

But even on shorter tracks like Fly on the Wall there are all sorts of clever dynamics going on - in this case the way the band take a very groovy blues lick that could happily stand alone and then start almost shamelessly dropping huge chords on top of it with all the subtlety of a concrete slab.

Lyrically there's all sorts of crazy sci-fi, supernatural and horror themes going on, and Yeagley gets huge bonus points (from me, at least) for acknowledging Clutch's Neil Fallon as a big inspiration.

There isn't a weak moment to be found on Something Supernatural, and about the only thing I can think of that would improve it is a bit more dynamic variation.  The record is very much tuned to 11 (or way past) for about 90% of the time, and although this seems to be one of the band's hallmarks, I can't help but feel that the dynamics they show on Queen of the Light and Fly on the Wall could become an even bigger asset.

Equally, it's hard to fault that approach when it results in tracks as ridiculously fun as Chupacabra, and given also that the more I listen to this album, the better it seems to get.  Crobot have clearly announced themselves as a band to watch with Something Supernatural, and there's an x-factor to their music that suggests to me that these guys could potentially be huge.  More power to them, I say, we need more exciting new bands like this.

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