Let me just start this review off by saying that this self-titled debut live album from Belgian act SH.TG.N (pronounced 'shotgun' apparently) is not what I would have expected coming from the folks at MoonJune Records. Labeled as mixing rock- heretic neo-medieval-carnival-folk-metal-jazz-RIO (and that's quite a mouthful right there!), this six piece band certainly do combine a wealth of styles here on this live album. For the faint of heart this music is not, as SH.TG.N are one hell of an adventurous and often times noisy & chaotic unit. Not a lot of melody to be found on this CD, but there is without a doubt plenty of excitement.
Recorded in Belgium back in December of 2011, the album is comprised of tracks all written by keyboard player & founder Antoine Guenet. The band also features vibraphone, guitar, bass, and drums, as well as the occasional vocal. When they keep things on the instrumental end, there's a lot to like here. Tracks such as "Dead Baby", " Deejays Should Have Low Self-Esteem", and " Eyjafjallajokull " all feature furious musical exchanges that combine raw metal with complex RIO (Rock in Opposition) and the wild abandon of free-jazz. Unfortunately, it's when the angry, screaming vocals of Fulco Ottervanger pop up that things start to get a little dicey. His grating, noisy delivery on the otherwise classy "Shitgun" and the booming metal piece "Camera Obscura" make those songs almost unlistenable, and his stabbing rants on the pulverizing mix of metal guitars and jazzy vibraphone of "Shotgun (Afraid Of)" again, are a big turn off. Guenet's quirky avant-garde number "Save Us From Bloody Women ", as short as it is, would have been a lot more enjoyable if we didn't have to endure Ottervanger's 'over the top' wailing, which segues right into the metal/jazz-fusion piece " Erase Her Dad", another number that would have been a terrific instrumental piece if it weren't for the insane 'Bobcat Goldthwait-meets-Sam Kinison' screaming. Out of all the vocal songs, the only one that Ottervanger is even the slighest bit listenable on is the exciting prog/doom metal track "J33 (I Don't Wanna See)", as he tones down his act somewhat amidst a furious barrage of organ and guitars. The CD closes out with the bombastic "Black Beetle", a near 8-minute monster of threatening prog & metal soundscapes that is as frighteningly good as anything I've heard in recent memory within the RIO framework.
Yes, I've made lots of complaints here about the vocals, and I'll be the first to admit that I think SH.TG.N needs to ditch Ottervanger and stick to being an instrumental outfit. However, there is plenty of exciting, foreboding music to be heard on this CD, despite the annoying vocals. Listen, I'm all for extreme type vocals; I do listen to a lot of death metal, black metal, and other types of extreme fare, so they do have their place. Here, they just don't fit, but I'm sure there are plenty of folks who won't mind them much and can take SH.TG.N as the complete package it is. Musically you just can't go wrong with this album.
1. Dead Baby (2:06)
2. Deejays Should Have Low Self-Esteem (4:24)
3. Eyjafjallajokull (3:18)
4. Shitgun (4:19)
5. Camera Obscura (6:17)
6. Shotgun (Afraid Of) (3:58)
7. Save Us From Bloody Women (1:07)
8. Erase Her Dad (3:01)
9. A Glimpse Into Eternity (4:31)
10. Esta Mierda No Es Democracia (3:12)
11. J33 (I Don't Wanna See) (4:42)
12. Black Beetle (7:58)