Young experimentalists really go wild

Back in the Spring MVM interviewed Belgian’s Steak Number Eight. The affable band didn’t seem to mind being perched on the stairs shooting the breeze, about half an hour before they were due onstage supporting Prong, and aside from their dislike of English food, were in excellent spirits.

They were clearly excited when talking about their new record, telling us they were really out to explore. Now, history – and good old cynicism – tells you that you can basically ignore the type of things bands say when they get ready to release a record. Until now that is.

Because, if Steak Number Eight were experimental before then you should hear them now. “Kosmokoma” is a veritable morass of sonic confusion. A huge, sprawling epic of a thing that doesn’t care for your rules, nor what you think of it. The record does exactly what it wants to for over an hour, then sits there and says: “work that out, go on”.

They had been hotly tipped in their homeland since they were teenagers. They’d always made music designed to confound expectations too. That night, the chat got round to the sort of music they listened to in their spare time, and when the answer came back, “man, we love Prog” (that’s “Prog,” not “Prong”) it initially shocked, but on closer reflection it made perfect sense SN8 were many things, but you couldn’t call them conventional. Even the people that love to classify everything struggle with this band. Let’s be honest, if the best anyone can do is “Post Metal Sludge” then that’s really the equivalent of holding your hands up and going “Christ knows, guv”.

The beginning and end are all you need to know to work out whether you are going to like “Kosmokoma”. It begins with a mighty, riff heavy, slab of work, “Return Of The Kolomon” which doesn’t bother itself with anything such as lyrics until right near its conclusion, and the collection ends with a close on ten minute piece of what amounts to riffing over white noise called “Space Punch” – staggeringly both work as pieces of music and therein lies the point.

Of course if you thought what was inbetween these two bookends would something approaching songs, then (largely) you’d be wrong. “Your Soul Deserves To Die Twice” is a piece of sludge chaos, then it’s topped off with an almost hypnotic chant. “Principal Features Of Cult” is short and snappy but and a really interesting cross between psychedelica and a kick in the crotch, and ends up being one of the best things on offer.

It vies for that accolade with the monolithic “Gravity Giants” and the gentle “Knows Sees Tells All” which matches discordant rhythms and over a light, airy musical bed before it all builds to a huge crescendo – it is all very prog and it’s very, very good.

It’s on those two songs that you get a full glimpse into what Steak Number Eight tried to achieve on “Kosmokoma”. It might not be for everyone – and indeed it would be wrong to say the album was entirely successful – but if you want a challenge, and you are prepared to invest some time, then there’s plenty to investigate here.

Rating 7/10

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