You’re Never Too Full For STEAK NUMBER EIGHT

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In 2013, The Ocean’s Pelagial captured the hearts of progressive metal fans the world over, and rightfully so. They are arguably the flagship band for progressive sludge in this decade, as we all know Mastodon aren’t on the track to fill their own Leviathan-shaped shoes anytime soon. But did you know, dear reader, that yet another expansive , melodic, post-something sludge masterpiece was released from central Europe that same year? Barely young enough to have college diplomas, the members of Belgian group Steak Number Eight managed to release their 3rd full length The Hutch, a poignant double-LP length tribute to distortion that is bereft of a single redundant moment.

As a band with crushing distortion, piano interludes, and nine minute songs, Steak Number Eight obviously owes a great deal to Neurosis and their many nations of disciples, but they depart from the herd when they quite naturally wrap approachable, even “mainstream” rock melodies in blankets of fuzz, grime, and bipolar dynamics more typical of post-metal bands. Album opener “Cryogenius” wastes no time getting loud with a classic harmonized doom riff. Casual fans of “rock” music may be confounded by the harsh vocals that initially accompany the guitar melody, but more seasoned metalheads will wait to turn their heads quizzically until the Alice In Chains-esque minor key chorus that comes immediately after. It’s catchy and, dare I say, almost pleasant. Although it now will seem obvious, putting this particular style of singing over this particular brand of riffing is simply unexpected. Then with no break between tracks, we are snapped to attention by the pulsing 5/4 Coalesce-meets-The Bronx verse of “Black Eyed” (video embedded above), which reminds us that post-metal mustn’t always be somber; sometimes it is the soundtrack to your joyous rage.

Hooks are plentiful in The Hutch, both vocally and in the guitar lines. “Ashore” sounds like a radio-rock ballad recorded by Kurt Ballou with the “SUCK” channel turned and taped down at 0. The graceful acceptance of vocal melody within the context of epic sludge metal feels like a validation of the possibilities that modern hard rock bands almost universally miss. Key to their success in this regard is the A+ vocal performance from Brent Vanneste. His singing voice is familiar yet singular, a resonant mid-range croon with a casual gravelly texture. His confidence in a quiet setting gives genuine weight to the moments he chooses to bark his guts out.

The Hutch is a rare gem of an album that ought to be equally appreciated by both jaded longhairs and hockey jocks wearing fitted Fox Racing caps. It’s the sort of record that creates converts, so do your part and share with a friend, and not just one of your “metal” friends. I know if I had heard this as a high-schooler I would have had a massive head start in appreciating bands like Russian Circles or Isis, so do the world a solid and net us some new headbangers.

NOTE: This article was adapted from one originally written by HessianHunter for Skullsmasher.com.

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