Before the 21st Century, the worlds of metal and jazz rarely, if ever, intersected. But that's all changed, so much so that musicians from both sides of the fence are rethinking their music, demolishing self-imposed genre boundaries and coming up with some truly innovative sounds. Belgium's SH.TG.N has the same sort of pioneering spirit. Yes, the results from its eponymous maiden release are mixed, but mixed in a promising way.
Though the band's publicity trumpets various metal influences quite prominently, its music remains far afield from any sort of metal-as- we-know-it, be it Black, Sludge, Doom, Thrash, Technical, or Death. That's not to say that SH.TG.N's music fails to maintain a constant and frenzied in-your-face intensity; it definitely does that. But its eponymous debut CD lands much closer to the iconoclastic, genre- mashing prog/jazz/rock/noise hybrids presented by bands like King Crimson
, circa Red
(DGM Live, 1974), Mr. Bungle, and the Norwegian Blackjazz band Shining
. Interestingly, the vibraphone- -played with extreme vigor by Wim Segersis a prominent element of the band's instrumentation. Despite being, literally, a metallophone, the vibraphone may possibly be the last instrument that would be expectedor wantedin a metal band.
The compositions, most written by keyboardist Antoine Guenet, are all pretty complicated despite being largely riff-based. It's no coincidence that Guenet's main musical outlet, The Wrong Object
, is one of the most interesting prog-fusion bands around right now. Odd time signatures prevail, as do sudden changes in tempo, syncopation, tonality, and texture. The music is also very intelligently arranged, with Guenet, Segers and guitarist Yannick DePauw nimbly switching in and out of the foreground as the pieces change direction.
Along with Guenet, DePauw is the primary soloist, but unlike Guenetwhose finely honed keyboard work belies extensive and rigorous formal trainingDePauw is a real rocker; fleet-fingered with a grainy, distorted tone and shredding tendencies. Bassist Dries Greusens and drummer Simon Segers
are obviously extremely skilled, though both are economical in their approach. On the minus side, it's almost guaranteed that some will find Fulco Ottervanger
's proto-psychotic vocals hard to take. All of the screaming, sprechstimme
and posturing aside, on several tracksnamely "Eyjafjallajokull," "Shotgun (Afraid Of)," and "A Glimpse Into Eternity"he proves to be a pretty capable rock vocalist in a post-Robert Plant mold. Elsewhere, he seems to take more of a performance art approach to his craft.
The most appealing thing about SH.TG.N
beyond the excellence of the musicianship and the passion and energy of its music, is its emphatic and total rejection of pretty much everything slick and comfortable in the prog-rock/fusion music world. Though its music isn't a throwback to an earlier time, its refreshing "warts and all" approach to music making is.