With 2010’s “Darker Later” Humanfly brought us to the edge of a bleak, aggressive and thunderous soundscape and dived right into a chasm with closing track ‘Heavy Black Snow’. Where next? Following such a driven and stark listen with more of the same was going to be an unlikely prospect for the constantly evolving Leeds four-piece.
And so to “Awesome Science” which flickers into life with tempered guitar and echoing vocals pulling you into opener ‘Golden Arrows’. Twisting and jerking it gently builds towards the frenetic wah-wah laden soloing that tumbles along through much of the latter half of the track, nodding towards Jimmy Page, Pat Metheny and even Larry Carlton along the way.
This gloriously self-indulgent sonic grenade is tossed with the arrogance and aplomb of a band that genuinely doesn’t care what genre they are tagged with or what you, dear listener, may expect of their latest album, but simply bristles with passion and flair.
The evocative melodies and searing guitar work continue apace on ‘A Majestic Story’ which displays more than a little affection for King Crimson whilst meandering through a field of 70’s stadium rock. As always, the drumming of Dave Jones underpins the whole affair beautifully. Necessarily jazzy, always fluid but never too busy – he adds a dash of magic to the proceedings. ‘The Apple That Never Fell’ is even more unashamedly prog than the previous tracks although heavier and more urgent, whilst ‘Poetry Of Light’ settles into a much mellower groove, feeling looser and more relaxed. Although it builds in trademark fashion to a dynamic six string orgasm it remains casual and almost improvisational in feel.
Then the monolithic ‘The Armour Of Science’ is upon us, with the Sutcliffe brothers’ combined attack reminding us they are still masters of the riff. With more time changes than you can shake a tinderstick at, this is quarter of an hour of spaced out bliss. Erupting with a pacey Helmet-meets-Mars Volta twin guitar melée and urgent Jello Biafran tones it pauses for breath in the middle as the crisp clean guitar tones pick out mournful harmonies. Once again it begins seething and raging as the crescendo leads into a neat bridge calling back to the opening riff, repeating and mutating through to the end as we are carried along on a wave of sonorous energy.
Closing with ‘Frozen In Time, Billons Of Light Years Away’ John Sutcliffe seems to be channeling Peter Gabriel as he chants his despair into the cold infinity of space. Having lulled you into a more gentle musical stream the distorted riffery re-emerges and sounds akin to The Ocean and Red Fang duelling for victory.
This is a veritable smorgasbord of styles and ideas and although in places a couple of the songs feel extended beyond their natural span there is very little about this record that is anything other than remarkable. Hard to see this being relegated from my top ten albums of 2013. An essential purchase.