The fact that Overcoming The Monster, the new album from UK progressive rockers KingBathmat, is their seventh full length release but the first time they have come to our attention really drives home the fact that we, and I suggest all of us are only scratching the surface of music and the depth of good bands, no matter how much we think we are in control and knowledgeable of what is out there. Better late than never certainly applies to this outstanding release as well as relief that they finally have ventured upon our radar, though again a mystery as to why a band this good has remained in the shadows for so long especially as going by those in the know, Overcoming The Monster is an album in a strong line of impressive releases from the Hastings quartet.
KingBathmat musically is a band wonderfully impossible to pin down. Hailed as a progressive rock band they equally employ all essences from psychedelic and alternative rock through to electronic, grunge, experimental metal and more into their unique creativity. Formed by songwriter /vocalist/guitarist John Bassett the band has unleashed a sextet of albums from debut Son of a Nun in 2003 through to the acclaimed Truth Button which came out at the start of the year. With David Georgiou (keyboards), Lee Sulsh (bass), and Bernie Smirnoff (drums) completing the line-up, KingBathmat creates a tempest of invention and imaginative adventure which is impossible to resist or escape once within its riveting clutches. Overcoming The Monster is a compelling flight of melodic fire, rhythmic provocation, and sonic beauty all wrapped in an ingenuity of craft and thought which leaves the listener quite breathless. With tracks which investigate the theme ‘of psychological obstacles (monsters of the mind) that are manufactured in our thoughts, both internally through our insecurities, externally by the outside influence of others and collectively through the mass media which uses fear as a tool to manipulate our perceptions’, the Stereohead Records album evokes and ventures into personal reflection igniting emotional dialogue with its potent premise and presence whilst all the time teasing and soaking the senses in music which is simply enthralling.
Opening track Sentinel makes a muscular entrance, riffs and rhythms claiming their piece of the senses whilst a brewing sonic mist wraps deviously around their capture. It is an immediately gripping start which once in command from its dramatic stance, relaxes into an emotive plea of keys and the vocals which paint the thought cradling narrative. The tenderly toned weave continues to expand its call with growing keys and group harmonies whilst the bass adds shadows that menace as they lurk within and stalk the melodic blaze of sound and feeling. As the song ventures further from its strong start across an equally intense if slightly underwhelming course there is a brooding sense of something impending. This becomes a solid gripping breath as, and not for the only time on the album, the track evolves into a potent and aurally dexterous mesh of ingenuity and contagion. Just beyond midway of the near nine minute track it unleashes the bass to roam with a new raptorial hunger framed by the equally greedy rhythms of Smirnoff whilst the vocals of Bassett ride their refreshing caging with expressive might. As riffs add their ‘savagery’ for the next evolution of the song, it climbs all over the senses as sonic ropes of invention tether it securely to the passions.
Though it took a while to fully persuade the song makes an impressive start to the release which is soon surpassed by firstly Parasomnia. The haunting opening child’s toy box like charm is a breath of innocence against the disturbing ambience enveloping the senses behind it, the tones of Bassett shaping the narrative with a continuing magnetic pull. Into its full presence the shadows dissipate as melodic hues paint their caresses from guitar and keys onto the imagination. Combining flames of heavy rock, metallic angst, and melodic washes, the song captivates from start to finish with its unpredictable grandeur, thoughts of Mars Volta, ELO, King Crimson, and most definitely Horslips spawning from the shifting spicery within the scintillating song. For all its triumph it is soon eclipsed by the stunning title track, easily the best song on the towering album. The niggling sonic coaxing which introduces the song is a continual temptation throughout whilst around it the band ebb and flow in crystalline invention, infectious melodies, and multi-flavoured invention. There is a familiarity to the track which is deceiving but certainly as it unwinds its striking persuasion and mystique the likes of Muse, Comsat Angels, and Soundgarden as well as Porcupine Tree and Floyd spring to mind.
Both the layered Superfluous, with its tantalising wealth of textures and jazz bred soaring heat, and the smouldering Reality Mining lead the listener into new teasing excursions of epidemically alluring emotional and aural exploits whilst the closing Kubrick Moon reaches into absorbing space for another original baptism of progressive and psychedelic musical chemistry. The trio of songs make for a towering conclusion to one of the very best progressive releases this year, one though completely unique in voice we suggests stands easily by the side of the new releases from The Ocean and Between The Buried And Me…it is that good.
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