Like many others we are sure, there was a surge of excited anticipation when the new American Head Charge album was announced. It was the first since 2005 full-length The Feeding and the band disbanding two years later. Their return after six years subsequently brought the excellent Shoot EP, a release bristling with hints of a new bigger and even bolder adventure to the AHC sound. Now those clues are realised and reinforced with Tango Umbrella; a maelstrom of prime AHC moments, new imaginative adventures, and exploits seemingly inspired by some of their companions in the nu-metal/melodic metal scene first time around. The result is a riveting and galvanic tempest of sound and imagination which for the main hits the spot dead centre.
From the first breath of their first album for Napalm Records, AHC go straight for the senses and imagination with opener Let All The World Believe. Its entrance is calm and coaxing, electronic pulses and beats gathering within an increasingly sinister ambience before the doors burst open and predatory riffs and rhythms eagerly crowd and trespass ears. It is a forcibly enticing start only blossoming again as the band unleashes inventive industrial metal rabidity. The keys of Justin Fowler sizzle and incite with devilish enterprise whilst the intrusive beats of Chris Emery descend with uncompromising intent. All the while Cameron Heacock vocally prowls like an apocalyptic ringmaster; his expression and words scathing and confrontational and just as alluring as the thick mesh of sound around him. With touches of Fear Factory and Static X to it, the track is a glorious start; an anthemic death dance bursting with the dramatic sonic devilment of guitarists Karma Cheema and Ted Hallows.
Drowning Under Everything quickly follows with another industrial sculpted invitation, its initial clang soon immersed in a robust tide of riffs and grooves. The growling bass of Chad Hanks quickly steals a chunk of the attention, backed by the matching potent bait of guitars and vocal laced with a Manson-esque hue soon evolving into a richer melodic flame bred with the familiar AHC dexterity and invention. It too is a swiftly shifting and changing passage within the tantalising track, a moment soon becoming entangled with all the other textures in a muggy creative maze. Inescapably the track ignites ears and again an already awoken appetite before the more thunderous assault of Perfectionist flares up to place its virulent grip on attention too. Atmospherically suggestive and vocally provocative, the song merges grunge and nu-metal traits and flavours to infectious effect as essences of Korn, Mudvayne, and Alice In Chains spice its enthralling proposal. Epitomising the whole album though, for all spices and influences openly shown, the track is unmistakably American Head Charge through and through.
The latter of those three references nudges thoughts again as the thick mesmeric and emotive embrace of Sacred takes over, the track crawling seductively over the senses as vocals, guitars, and keys charm and tantalise ears. With the bass grumbling and beats swinging in tandem, the track beguiles from its first second, before being followed and overshadowed by the quite irresistible I Will Have My Day, a fiercely rousing and relentless White Zombie incitement with again great AIC sounding harmonies and melodic caresses.
The emotion loaded A King Among Men comes next; the ballad a requiem of piano, voice, and harmonies likely inspired by the loss of previous band guitarist Bryan Ottoson in 2005 and more recently friends like Wayne Static but equally a sentiment for anyone losing someone. It is a potent piece leaving a lingering touch much like, but in whole different way, Suffer Elegantly. The call of the wild springs a charging, invasive surge of riffs and grooves driven by hellacious rhythms. There is no escaping a Ministry incited dynamic to the track or its savagely tenacious energy and sound but again AHC twist it into their own ravenous ideation and aggressive imagination. Many major favourites emerge from within Tango Umbrella, this right there on the frontline.
The twisting rapacious tone and grooves of Antidote enslaves ears and thoughts next, its flirtatious melodies and off-kilter slithers of sound rich pickings for the imagination whilst the Down like hostility which seeps from the track’s uncaging of raw intensity has the spirit as inflamed as the rest of the song has ears gripped. Increasingly more impressive and addictive with every listen, the song entices and snarls like a beast in heat much as the Trent Reznor like Prolific Catastrophe which sidles in with a devilish glint in its creative eye and a rousing fire in its sonic belly.
Completing the album is firstly the musically and lyrically antagonistic Down And Depraved, a grouchy and mercurial blaze of voice and sound, and finally the atmospherically cast When The Time Is Never Right. It is another which needed time to convince as heartily as previous tracks within Tango Umbrella but persistently has satisfaction and involvement fully engaged whilst bringing the album to a magnetic end.
It is fair to say that Tango Umbrella lives up to the promise of the band’s last EP and more. It is like a kaleidoscope of their highlights to date and inspirations picked up along the way, in turn almost like trip through the listener’s own nu/industrial metal inspired soundtrack but most of all, the album is one thoroughly thrilling, inventively fresh and varied slab of American Head Charge imagination re-establishing the sextet as one of our prize assets.
Tango Umbrella is released via Napalm Records on March 25th through most online stores.
Remaining dates on the AHC/Mushroomhead UK tour
26.03.16 UK – Bristol / The Marble Factory
27.03.16 UK – Plymouth / The Hub
29.03.16 UK – Cardiff / The Globe
30.03.16 UK – London / Electric Ballroom
31.03.16 UK – Brighton / Concorde 2
01.04.16 UK – Southampton / Engine Rooms
02.04.16 UK – Norwich / Waterfront
03.04.16 UK – Reading / Sub89
Pete RingMaster 24/03/2016
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