Originally available as a vinyl release only, the first full length album strangely enough entitled II, from Leeds U.K. based Humanfly has now been issued on CD with two additional tracks included as a bonus. This quartet plays a heavy, bone crunching & atmospheric brand of sludge rock and II gives the listener almost an hour of punishing and colossal rock jams.
There isn't a lot of technical brilliance on display here and quite honestly these songs don't require it anyway. Instead the band prefers to build their compositions slowly (nothing on II clocks in under eight minutes) from the ground up, gradually constructing these epic tracks in diverse, multi-layered sections. Vocals are applied ever so sparingly and when they do appear, alternate between angst ridden screams and a low, guttural death metal style growl. As a result of the sparse amount of vocal activity, lyrically there isn't a lot going on here either. For example the opening track, the massive "Another Week In The Theme Park Of Death (Echoes Of The Roman Empire)" which is divided into three sections, "Part 1 Murder", "Part 2 Is Equal To… "and "Part 3 Profit", vocalist / guitarist John Sutcliffe doesn't appear until almost five minutes in on "Part 2" and when he does it's only to scream out a scathing refrain of "Your country killed you, don't you know your country killed you for oil" which is quite effective overtop the sonic maelstrom whirling around him. "Part 3" closes this monstrous epic with his anguished screams repeating over and over the direct message of "Blood for oil". Likewise on "Nenhuns Deuses Nenhuns Mestres" another ultra-heavy riff fest, Sutcliffe seems intent on screaming himself hoarse by belting out nothing more that the English translation of the title "No Gods, No Masters At All".
What makes II one hell of an effective album is the bands proficiency at navigating seamlessly through passages of spacey atmospherics coupled with a relentless amount of skull crushing metallic crunch. Further great examples of their shifting sonic palette can be found on both "Shot Into Space / Vengeance Of Neptune" with it's Tangerine Dream-esque intro and "Tjarnargata / A Passage To Reykjavik" which commences with a dark, foreboding guitar section that sounds like something lifted off of Lucifer Rising, before exploding into a densely layered and perfectly calculated barrage of aggression. The final two bonus tracks which were tacked onto the CD version "Marakech" and the appropriately titled "An Intimate Battering" feature more of the same dynamic blend of in your face hostility and subtle melodic textures. The latter being particularly impressive due to its long, psychedelic tinged middle section, until it eventually climaxes in an orgy of tormented screams. The production and sonic qualities are also worth mentioning as the band opts for a dry sound overall, which is especially evident on the drums, instead of going for any kind of sonic gloss.
Some listeners may find that sitting through an hours worth of music that is this compelling and powerful from beginning to end, to be a lot to digest. I found it to be quite a captivating and even cathartic listening experience. Humanfly have definitely shed the musical skin of their past, returned with a renewed energy and focus and delivered one hell of an album in the process. The future looks quite promising indeed.
1) Another Week In The Theme Park Of Death (Echoes Of The Roman Empire)
2) Shot Into Space (On A Collision Course With The Sun) / Vengeance Of Neptune
3) Nenhuns Deuses Nenhuns Mestres
4) Tjarnargata / A Passage To Reykjavik
6) An Intimate Battering