Easily one of our feverishly favourite tracks of last year was 13th Moon from US alternative rock / metal outfit No Captains, a band we had not come across before but were poised to release their fourth album. The track was enough alone to spring a hungry exploration of the then incoming Friends Like These and in turn an equally eager desire to share our discoveries.
San Francisco based, No Captains consist of vocalist Alex Shonkoff, bassist Danny Sando and drummer Vince Shore. Absorbing inspirations from the likes of by Mr. Bungle, Iron Maiden, Tool, Primus, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against The Machine, the trio cast a spell of a sound merging alternative metal, funk and elements of punk and post punk with plenty more in its imagination. A hasty listen to previous full-lengths, the impressive 2010 debut The Next One and the pair of Head Symphony and Fictional Authority four years after, revealed that their music and imagination has been a lively adventure from day one. The second of the three especially sprung our imagination whilst at the time maybe more than most hinting at the glory that is Friends Like These and its startling body of enterprise and creative orchestration; a record which sets No Captains on a whole new plateau of invention, captivation and surely attention.
Admittedly, a dextrous bass and drums alone sound is an instinctive draw here so that same lead core to No Captains’ invention gave it a head start which, as in previous encounters, the band’s embracing of many guest contributions to their songs to further colour and weave the individual tales of shadow realms and curious fantasy they share only built upon. Friends Like These is a feast for the creative imagination as much as an animated lure for ears as immediately proven by Looking Glass. Opening a door into the band’s peculiar world the track slowly opens its arms, shadows creeping around the vocal introduction of Lester Raww (The Pine Box Boys, Lester T. Raww’s Graveside Quartet). The suggestion is two-fold, are we stepping into a sinister, arcane realm or a magical world?
Never Been Named reveals all and both, a flirtatious funky bassline taking the hand and leading the shuffle as Shore’s rhythms dance. As swiftly, Shonkoff’s magnetic tones and words spring; the song continuing to manipulate instincts with its animated bounce. Like a fusion of Molotov Jukebox, Mama Doom and Big Business, the track effortlessly captivated with its darkly lit tale just as fascinating.
With its own compelling rhythmic shuffle, Donut Theory swings in next and instantly, the body was moving to its orchestration as thoughts warmed to the flawed romance of Shonkoff’s story. A brooding breath of sound and underlying volatility bring greater drama to the track until it can restrain its irritation and tempestuous energy no longer.
From one irresistible moment to another as Maze saunters in with melodic charm and that ever creeping theatre of sinisterly intimation. Guitarist B.Z. Lewis weaves the radiance of melody which shines like a sunspot within the caliginous sphere of sound, shining a glistening light upon the rhythmic prowess of Sando and Shore, the latter casting a web of passion enslaving beats.
The following pair of Throne and Wrinkle in Slime feature guitarists Dereck Kerby and Anthony Ciandella respectively, the first gripping attention with its own hip infesting shuffle. With disquieting beauty, the song further blossoms in eerie and menacing enterprise as Sando’s bass deliciously nags at the senses and Shonkoff again steals her piece of the imagination in presence and vocal consternation while the second carries a pugnacious air to its breath and touch. A punk essence soaks the snarl on the song’s lips, its progressive nature as off kilter as its occult rock hued breath.
Fair to say addiction to the release was healthily stirred at this point and only reinforced by River Run which sees the return of Raww with his banjolele in hand. Southern lined, Cajun tinted, the song held intoxicating court in all aspects before making way for Quit Your Job and its quirky jazz funk saunter. It too is a collusion of the ominous and celebratory, the trombone of C.L. Berehens breathing both within its resourceful tempting. There is a nostalgic air of bands such as Bauhaus and The Jazz Butcher to the album which this track wonderfully if coincidentally employs to further its irresistibility.
Sirens with its voracious punk fuelled ravening provides a moment which at first seemed out of place but within its minutes had ears and appetite greedily feeding on, with the guesting guitar of Morty Lopez thrusting the rocks of dilemma sat upon by the vocals of presumably Sando upon the listener even before the song of its titled protagonists.
2 Left Feet tested are own agility on toes as the band’s rhythmic manoeuvring instantly gripped ears once more, Shonkoff’s defiance in word and breath against intimate bigotry bearing a Siouxsie Sioux-esque middle finger before the ever riveting and delicious 13th Moon made its appearance. Cinematic in its atmospheric breath wonderfully cast by the ever alluring violin of Emily Palen (a.k.a. KnightressM1), the track is a creepily minacious stroll through eldritch landscapes. Hand in hand with the bewitching voice and narrative of Shonkoff, the imagination greets demons and devils within a Wicker Man like spell, the voodoo prowl of rhythms just another incantation in pure clandestine seduction though a secret no more.
With The Tide closing out the album in equally haunting style, the golden shimmer of guitarist Marc Belluomini adding psych seeded flumes in the instrumental’s suggestive calm if one with a sense of new deep lying perils awaiting, Friends Like These resounds with one of a kind creative devilry. From its first touch to closing breath, the album bred lust fuelled captivation which continues to haunt our urges and imagination. If like us No Captains was a secret before it is hard to imagine they will stay so around the world any longer if of course given the chance to share their creative sorcery.
Friends Like These is out now; available @ https://nocaptainssf.bandcamp.com/album/friends-like-these
Pete RingMaster 27/01/2022
Copyright RingMaster Review