Severely hooked by their debut release, the epic 2013 Snakeskin EP and fully wrapped up in the creative confines of debut album Sadlands the following year, it is fair to say that anticipation for the second full-length from King Hiss was as eager as for anything else offered this year. Mastosaurus does not disappoint either, quickly confirming existing thoughts that this is a band not only going places but on the point of major recognition while revealing a new creative plateau to their rousing songwriting and sound.
Formed in 2011, with a line-up seeing guitarist Joost Noyelle, vocalist Jan Coudron, and the rhythmic might of bassist Dominiek ‘Visioene’ Hoet and drummer Jason Bernard linking up, Belgium hailing King Hiss quickly began making a strong impression with their striking mix of rapacious riffs and murderous rhythms. As shown by the previously mentioned releases, it was a proposal helping the band earn a powerful reputation and acclaiming attention, for their live presence and sound and records. Mastosaurus is bound for greater success and spotlights as King Hiss reveal a new imagination and craft in songwriting and its rousing results. A concept album portraying the epic adventures of a doomed antihero, it storms ears from its first breath with songs which are as fearsomely meaty as they are imaginatively infectious and beguiling. Throughout grooves entangle the body and infiltrate the psyche as rhythms and riffs devour; fiery melodic interplay a lava-esque hue to the anthemic roar on offer track after track.
The album opens up with Homeland, the creaking wood of a ship luring prowling riffs which in turn align to a sonic fuzziness around a heavy portentous bassline. It is an intriguing start, a muggy opening coming further alight as Coudron’s impressive delivery enters the quickly set affair. Heated grooves bring an Alice In Chains like essence to the dark tempest brewing within ears, a thick smog of emotion and intensity as catchy as it is threatening. Eventually it ignites in a volcanic assault that simply blisters and captivates before making way for the even more impressive attack of Tourniquet. Straight away intoxicating wiry grooves are gripping and seducing the imagination, their exploits matched by the great harmonies and growling bassline surrounding Coudron’s ever compelling presence. There is no escaping another AIC/Queens Of The Stone Age flavouring in a track which is almost bestial as it makes its infectious and formidable King Hiss distinct presence.
The outstanding Black Sea, Slow Death comes next, part shanty part stoner infused rock ‘n’ roll, it takes the contagious elements of its predecessors turning them virulent around a vocally driven, melodically suggestive drama. There is something familiar to the song, something which often occurs across Mastosaurus, and is soon realised as being the inventive juice of the band which previously made their earlier encounters stand out, just in a more enterprisingly imposing and striking form now.
The rhythmic thunder of Bernard brings We Live in Shadows to life and to glory next, his swinging tenacity matched in temptation by the sonic flames of Noyelle as Coudron roars with evocative expression while the album’s title track similarly sees the drummer unleash the most anthemic prowess as danger and tempestuous suggestion surrounds him. The track is soon a blaze of vocal and sonic fire as a stormy barrage of riffs and those rousing beats descend; the song just as venomous in its calmer trespasses through eager ears. Mastosaurus is pure creative drama which even if it does not have the body throwing itself around has the imagination and passions twisted around its little finger.
The initial acoustic coaxing of Stuck in a Hole leads into another swarm of melodic incitement, they in turn slipping into gentle seduction before their captivating kindling erupts into an incendiary roar; proceeding to smoulder and ignite again and again across the mighty track. The song is further confirmation of the new diversity and invention in the textures and ideation making up the album’s songs, that essence just as ripe within successor Egomaniac; two and a half minutes of ferocious breath-taking sinew driven rock ‘n’ roll with its own style of voracious contagiousness.
Both Renegade with its rich bluesy atmosphere and ridiculously persuasive chorus and the antagonistic nature of Killer Hand further ignite hungry ears and an already greedy appetite for Mastosaurus, the second of the two especially momentous in the soundscape of the perpetually riveting and galvanic release. As all tracks, each invites and receives bold participation before Requiem for the Lost brings the mighty encounter to a startling close. With a grouchy resonance to keys and an emotionally raw melodic touch which at times with no word of a lie reminds of Wings, the instrumental is a melodramatic and melancholic epilogue to the tale and triumph before it.
Mastosaurus is exceptional and increasingly so with every listen as it reveals fresh textures and layers to its turbulent, often rabid, and constantly explosive body. King Hiss is ready to challenge to the frontline of European metal/rock with an album many bands there will only wish they had in their arsenal.
Pete RingMaster 08/11/2016
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