Wednesday 25 November 2015

Ape Machine - Coalition Of The Unwilling (EP Review)

Release date: November 20th 2015. Label: Heavy Psych Sounds. Format: CD/DD/Vinyl

Coalition Of The Unwilling – Tracklisting

1. Crushed From Within 4:28
2. Disband 3:47
3. Give What You Get 3:11
4. Under This Face 4:02
5. Ape’n’Stein 4:57
6. Never My Way 4:54

Band Members:

Caleb Heinze – Vocals
Ian Watts - Guitar
Brian True - Bass
Damon De La Paz - Drums


Ape Machine has existed for more than 5 years and the monkeys have in this relative short time span managed to put out an impressive catalogue of quality releases. Ever since their first two self-released albums ‘This House Has Been Condemned’ and ‘War To Head’ Ape Machine has been slinging their own take on classic heavy, blues, stoner and 70s rock straight at us. Although recording it all in an analogue manner they have somehow always managed to be relevant and quite modern sounding resulting in an enticing musical product that both the old guard and the selfie-generation can relate to.

3rd album saw Ape Machine maturing and broadening their scope with regards to both song writing, consolidating their sound and placing even more focus on the heavy parts, the complex interplay the musicians in between and furthermore deepening the groove. This one-song monster (cut up into 10-subdivisions) also secured them a label deal with Ripple Music that released ‘Mangled By The Machine’ in 2013 to much praise reviewers and fans alike.

Coalition Of The Unwilling is the fourth and latest outing from these stoner blues grove mongers and at the same time their first on Italian trailblazer label Heavy Psych Sounds. So what does this constellation of a band that is renowned for never missing a tone or misplacing a beat teaming up with a label that seem to be on a one-way flight to grandeur?

For the first, the baboons seem to have taken the term ‘Psych’ to heart on their new EP, that has a clear psychedelic touch on several of the songs. Next, the execution of the songs are second to none, all are expertly performed and not one paw put wrong, but still with somewhat of a more loose feel to the tracks. COTU is just an EP and albeit short (just little over 25 minutes) with regard to running time, but what it lacks in quantity it tenfold makes up for in quality. What we get here is grade-A top shelf stoner rockery metal grooves in abundance. The riffs are aplenty; the guitar tone is thick, warm and vibrant; the vocals are over-the-top; the bass is tight and the groove even tighter.

Knowing this is a short-runner, the apes waste no time, and after short ambient intro sounding like an airplane taking off the machine is put into full motion with Crushed From Within constituted of one of the fattest grooves I have heard all year. This is classic Ape Machine blues stoner groove metal and a prime example on how to move some serious muscle. It is hard to decide what features to highlight from this track as it appears like one solid entity of sonic excess. However, if anything the bass works at play here need a separate mention as now and then the bass lines meander off from the ├╝bertight interlock with the drumming and creates short leads somewhere in the empty spaces left by the sparkling drumming.

Up next ‘Disband’ leaves the starting blocks in a high pace kicking up dust and sand in its trail. A nice extra flavor to this track is the presence of some sweet sounding organ adding a little southern tinge in the corner of the mouth. Let us not forgot that the monkeys have one foot firmly rooted in the blues, and while Caleb wails and croons: “We will not be moved” it is nearly impossible as a listener to sit still while enjoying the groove party taking place just on the other site of the speakers.

Third track is yet another up-tempo rocker, blasting off into classic metal territory with blasting guitars and 80s metal riffery, still with that undeniable ape’y-sound. With ‘Give What You Get’ Ape Machine opts for a more straight forward rocking sound and a more simple drum pattern, but be not mistaken, there is never a dull moment during this 3 minute race.

Track 4 ‘Under This Face’ is the track that align most with sound and expression found on ‘Mangled By The Machine’. Anything that comes just vaguely close to that album is gold standard rock in my book. This track has it all; signature singing, insistent groove, thick fuzzy riffs, soaring leads and a rhythm section tighter than an old English librarian’s rectum. Ape Machine moves around touching all corners of interests in heavy, hard rock, like a bunch of naughty monkeys keen to entertain all your musical senses at once.

On ‘Ape’n’Stein’ an all instrumental track Ape Machine goes out on a limb in a jazzy freak-out that at time reminds me of a heavy version of contemporary jazzers in Galactic. This track is complete with progressive, improv-like drumming, flares of white guitar light that blisters in all directions, and all the time with a tight bass bottom keeping all the madness in place. This is genius-ly orchestrated chaos, just like if Albert Einstein was to lead a pack of crazy gorillas stampeding through a musical instrument store.

Final track ‘Never My Way’ starts of as an updated version of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ just to explode into a fuzzy version of Bedlam in Goliath section 3 minutes in. What sort of audacity to pull such a mix of influences from 70s heavy blues rock to 90s freak, progressive metal in little under 5 minutes, some feat of strength and a great example of the sheer musicianship at play inside the Ape Machine (moniker for reel to reel).

Ape Machine gets the job done more than well on ‘Coalition of the Unwilling’ and I wonder what sort of monkey business, they decide to amuse us with next time on a possible future full length. One thing is certain; it is bound to be one hell of fun.

Words by Niels Fuzz Bartholdy

Thanks to Claire at Purple Sage PR for the promo. Coalition Of The Unwilling is available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl from Heavy Psych Sounds now.