Album Reviews

Chrome Hoof – Crush Depth

(Southern) UK release date: 3 May 2010

Chrome Hoof - Crush Depth On paper, Chrome Hoof are one of those propositions that sound like they could either be the worst, or quite possibly the best band in the world ever. When a band list their major influences as spanning everything from Kraftwerk to Slayer, from Faust to Kate Bush, issue bonkers press releases stringing song titles together to tell tales of ocean shipwrecks, and appear to be fronted by a robot diva from space, then the music is really going to have to go some to live up to expectations.

And, on first listen, it appears that they might actually have risen to the challenge. Opening with the crash and screech of a rusty metallic door opening, or cobwebbed vault being unlocked, they manage to cram pulsating, throbbing noises and robot voices into first track Core Delusion. While it clocks in at less than one minute, it seems as if the scene is being set for something almost literally Out Of This World. Outer space is indeed referenced several times, both in song titles like Third Sun Descendant and in those few snippets of audible lyrics such as Vapourise’s “…as unknowable to Man as outer space”.

A strong funk strain runs through much of the music, both in the vocal and the bassline of lead track Crystalline, in Towards Zero’s guitar and notably in Vapourise, whose taut guitars and rhythms could be described as punk-funk. But there is such a vast range of other different sounds and styles that it becomes incoherent, confusing and ultimately a little wearying.

Witness if you will Labyrinth, which starts out as a Dresden Dolls-like cabaret number, then mutates into the X-Ray Spex; Sea Hornet (perhaps the most frustratingly eclectic track of all) goes from disembodied laughs and yelps to tribal drums to a curious kind of space/lounge music, throwing in some ethereal vocal near the end just to help things along a bit. Bunker’s Paradise takes in both Slits-esque yelpy post punk and some lush orchestral strings, with a side-order of jazz; while Third Sun Descendant is distinctly metal, all heavy guitar chug and screamo vocals.

The problem with this, of course, is that the lack of coherence over an entire album is ultimately alienating to the listener. The absence of anything approaching a memorable or sustained melody, the tendency to rapidly and dramatically change direction within a track, just as one starts to get a handle on it, all make for a listening experience that is decidedly hard work. The lack of audible lyrics only adds to this sense of distance from the band.

Virtuoso drumming as exhibited on many tracks, particularly Mental Pepides and Vaporise, and the revelatory, synth-led and wholly enjoyable Deadly Pressure (featuring krautrockers Cluster) are not, ultimately, enough to lift Crush Depth back to the surface and forestall the impression that this is music that has clearly been a lot of fun to make, if unfortunately a little less so to listen to.

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More on Chrome Hoof
Chrome Hoof – Chrome Black Gold
Chrome Hoof – Crush Depth
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