Review

Review

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell: 'Don't Hear It... Fear It!' – CD Review

up
46

My first encounter with this UK old-school hard rock trio involved the double WTF impact of their epically bizarre name (borrowed from a 17th Century British naval commander) and the piercing demonic stare of their crimson bird mascot... and that's before I even heard tracks like “Mark of the Beast,” “Devil's Island” or “iDeath.” Formed in 2008, The Shovell (as their devoted fans have nicknamed them) is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Johnny Redfern (aka Johnny Gorilla), bassist/vocalist Louis Wiggett and drummer Bill Darlington, who describe their own freaky musical niche as a mix of “neo-psych, garage, freakbeat and powerpop.” To my ears, they seem to have stepped out of an alternate dimension where occult-themed heavy metal and trippy space rock have driven just about every other music genre to extinction, and their descendants have somehow bred with modern garage-rockers to create a strange new species. But I can put it in even simpler words: Don't Hear It... Fear It! is loud, weird and insanely aggressive rock that doesn't give a damn what decade it is.

 
 
The chilling first track “Mark of the Beast” opens with eerie reverse reverb effects and vocal chanting, but halfway into this one they start laying down thick, greasy riffs – not so much to establish a melodic hook, but to carve the guitar patterns into your skull – and Redfern's coarse, gruff vocals. The guitars, both clean and amped, go darker and doomier for the slow Sabbath-style groove of “Devil's Island,” establishing a solid base over which Redfern runs wild with his lead guitar licks. The riffage finally reaches critical mass in “iDeath,” which drives every element – rhythms, riffs, even vocals – to the brink of noise explosion. While these three are the most memorable cuts on the record, there's plenty of wild and weird jams to come. My copy (and apparently the official release) includes an untitled fourth track which is actually a continuation of the later cut “Killer Kane,” picking up where that one faded off into swirling, phasey repeats of that song's opening hook.
 
There's a dark funky groove to “Red Admiral Black Sunrise,” which calls to mind groundbreaking bands like Budgie (which the band cites as one of their main influences), and the main riff is one of the strongest on the album, but things get even darker and groovier in “Scratchin' & Sniffin,” thanks to a freestyle mid-section and some awesome wailing on a Hammond organ. The aggression is dialed higher for “The Last Run,” which packs a brain-hammering rhythmic punch, and is followed by the oddball time signatures of “Killer Kane,” a rowdy rompy that drinks deeply from the well of '70s proto-metal. After several minutes of dead air, the record closes with the intense psychedelic brew of “Bean Stew,” showcasing Redfern's guitar work – which is not so technically pristine, but dirty, furious and intense, as it should be – and goes out with a bang.
 
From the free-form songwriting style to the vintage instrumentation and amazingly convincing lo-fi production, Don't Hear It... Fear It! is gritty, raw and authentic retro-rock all the way. But unlike a lot of new bands that simply echo metal's birth cries of the late '60s and early '70s, The Shovell digs deeper (sorry, I had to go there), past mere homages to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, MC5, Blue Oyster Cult and even early Iron Maiden (although all of those influences shine through brightly), and into a broader, more diverse sound full of unexpected twists and turns, adding up to a solid debut that is spooky, complex and righteously hard.
<none>