Keelhaul - _Keelhaul_
(Escape Artist, 2000)
by: Paul Schwarz (
This record completely passed me by when it originally emerged a few years ago, so I am very glad that its recent re-release occurred, because otherwise I may never have got to discover, absorb and enjoy its unusual character. Still, I find it difficult to describe or explain precisely -why- I like _Keelhaul_ so much. Largely instrumental, sometimes for whole tracks (like the aggressive "Tuco" opener or calming closer of "ESP") but just as often for large sections of songs where Aaron Dallison's grating vocals nonetheless feature, _Keelhaul_ is not a first listen record: it takes a while to absorb and digest. When Dallison's direct shout/screams do feature, the instrumentation is uncomplicated. However, when Keelhaul move off instrumentally, -that- is when they really get interesting. From a relatively simple rhythmic base and basic riffs the band layer various harsh melodies and percussion fills, slowly and hypnotically building to massive climaxes: the intimacy of the compositions makes you feel like you're hearing a band (and a very tight, good band at that) jam in their own practice room. Then, momentarily and dynamically, Keelhaul will reduce their complexity down and plough themselves in a different direction. There's something about _Keelhaul_ that's strangely private; it's a hard record to listen to amongst people who don't "get it". That said, giving its unusual and intensely individual forty-five minutes repeated spins is well worth the moments of wonderfully pure musical enjoyment it will yield. Virtually nothing on _Keelhaul_ fits any traditional description of "nice" -- it's nearly all hard and harsh in one way or another -- but yet its nastiness is more atmospheric than it is gut-wrenchingly brutal; Keelhaul doesn't use percussion battery or multiple-tracked guitars to do its work, it instead evokes feeling more purely through its musical compositions. That's what makes great music: making an impact on a deep, lasting level. A devastating, shocking first strike may initially make peoples' jaws drop, but it doesn't keep hitting the spot in listens or years to come, and I think _Keelhaul_ will; in fact, I think it'll just get better the more time I put into it.
(article published 12/8/2000)
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