[16 March 2008]
With the release of Strange Hexes, Imaad Wasif and Two Part Beast have crafted an album that traces a vein from late ‘60s acid rock to ‘70s proto-metal. If you want a reference point, imagine Zeppelin or Sabbath covering Neil Young & Crazy Horse with Jeff Buckley (minus some of the drama) on lead vocals, and you’re in the vicinity of the sound that underpins songs like the crusading “Wanderlusting” and the snarling “Unveiling”.
Following on the heels of a parade of influences such as this, perhaps it’s impossible not to expect too much of the Beasts, but the fact of the matter is that even after repeated listens, Hexes is a middling set that suffers greatly from the predominance of indistinguishable material that tends to lack any forward motion. This isn’t to say that the album doesn’t have a few outstanding moments, but they’re never enough to lift the songs out of their usual murky territory. Tracks like “Wanderlusting” and “Oceanic”, for instance, surge and froth with a seething energy that takes up the torch from late ‘80s/early ‘90s guitar rock and runs it out of town. It’s just that there are too many aggravating mud-crawlers like album closer “Abyss” which, like too many others, is a four-minute bore until the typically epic finale.
As far as the album’s winners go, though, there is one undisputed champion: “The Seventh Sign.” Situated right in the middle of the album, it’s a nearly perfectly crafted nightmare vision of Armageddon that hearkens back to the brooding post-psychedelia of Neil Young’s On the Beach, with echoes of Jeff Buckley’s Sketches For My Sweetheart the Drunk thrown in for good measure. The refrain is an absolute chiller, as Wasif lilts, “Because we’ve known true happiness / we can only get colder,” with such a grim sincerity that you’re stunned by an unshakeable sense of some impenetrable gloom. It’s the kind of song that could almost make you forgive the dull wash of its neighbors, but instead, sadly, it makes the rest of the album all the more frustrating.
As “Seventh Sign” winds down, after a soaring chorus that is awesome in the most biblical sense of the word, the group seems to run out of steam. The jams become tired, as side two opens with a banal tune called “The Oracle”. From there onward we’re stuck with little more than a couple of mild curiosities and a few other scraps that would have had a much better home on the cutting-room floor. At some point Wasif’s lyrics meander into a lazy prog that’s alleviated only by the inevitable arrival of some miserable, insipid guitar workout that lolls about like a dunce until the song’s finally over. The sense of mystery that hung about the earlier tracks has pretty much vanished entirely by this point, and as the disc wears on you begin to notice that there’s not all that much to be said for Two Part Beast’s rhythmic accompaniment other than, “They’re pretty tight, I guess.”
Ultimately, there’s just not enough of the good stuff here to warrant an entire album. Maybe the Strange Hexes EP would have been a smarter move. But I’m no record company man, so I won’t further push anyone’s buttons. Hexes shows potential, but not much else. It’s worth a listen, but it might just be better to buy “The Seventh Sign” on iTunes.