If there is one thing rock music is founded on, one simple eternal premise, then it is the power of the riff. The riff is the central lifeblood of all rock music. Brighton three piece Negative Pegasus are a band positively fit to bursting with riffs. What they do with those riffs and the way in which they brutally and relentlessly attack the listener with the sheer force of sound marks Looming out as one of 2012’s strongest debut rock albums.
Negative Pegasus do not do things in half measures. There are only eight tracks on Looming but each track makes maximum use of every crunch of the guitar, every howl of feedback and every crack of the relentless pounding drum. The riff is the central aspect of almost every song here but these are none of the usual classic rock riffs. Negative Pegasus take the sound of rock in its most basic form and relentlessly warp it into something dynamic, forward thinking and intensely thrilling.
Opening track How It Happens introduces Negative Pegasus’ pulverising sound. The guitar effect intro sounds like a rapidly malfunctioning machine before a metronomic repetitive drumbeat kicks in and pounds to the finish. The rising tension is ratcheted up to almost unbearable levels, making for quite an exciting intro. In a certain respect Negative Pegasus share much with dance music and its love for a relentless build and drop. Those attributes are regularly applied to rock music in a way that forges a unique mix of psychedelic swirling rock with some of the sensibilities of industrial electro.
Ottoman Silver provides a form of release with its stop-start lumbering riff and winding classic rock solo. There is a striking contrast between the regimented, almost military drums of Carla Foss and the loose meandering guitar that swirls over the top. Floating Omen is another track that demonstrates the influence of electronic sounds. The song takes the form of a loose, freeform jam, allowing the twin effects-laden guitars of Richard Netley and Todd Jordon to have free rein to experiment leading to a hulking mass of swirling noise and howled vocals.
Vocals are shared between Netley and Jordan, but both seem to share a primal scabrous howl as their default vocal setting. Lyrics are sparse and barely discernible, the vocals seemingly a counterpoint to the power of the music rather than the main focus. On the portentous rush of Psychic Energy, the rage of Jordan’s holler really amplifies the white-hot tension.
Two instrumental pieces are featured on the album and these two tracks highlight Negative Pegasus’ forward thinking experimental tendencies. A Single Fuck starts off as a dreamy slow guitar piece with the washes of guitar sounding like ocean waves beating against the shore. Over the course of the piece, those waves engulf the listener who is subsumed by a mass of noise and feedback. Soaker is equally compelling, an outré piece of experimental noise that offers a nice counterpoint to the more overtly rock tracks. Closing track Visitation perhaps offers the best example of Negative Pegasus’ propulsive sound. Its dirty hulking groove is breathlessly exciting and it is an excellent finish to a very proficient debut.
Negative Pegasus are one of those very rare bands that can change the very dynamic and sound of their genre. Looming is a record that can turn contemporary UK rock upside down. Riffs are all well and good but it’s what you do with them that counts.