Despite their utterly ridiculous name and the fact they hail from Belgium, hardly the Mecca of Metal, the four members of Steak Number Eight have been making waves for a few years now, although their promotional pictures suggests it will be a long time before they are able to buy a pint without showing I.D. However, upon listening to their monstrous sophomore album “The Hutch”, it soon becomes obvious that age has been no barrier in crafting this work of epic and mature excellence.
The heavy-duty chords and measured progression of opener ‘Cryogenius’ instantly make it obvious that a hell of a lot of effort has gone into the songwriting of “The Hutch” as the track shifts through several shades of post metal, yet the feeling is strong that this is something mainstream fans could easily sink their teeth into. This is reinforced by the staccato attack and shouted refrains of ‘Black Eyed’, a song tailor made for the pit, with even the quieter sections surging with an intensity that recalls early Baroness, and will have heads banging and voices soaring in equal measure.
However, it’s on the near eight minute march of ‘Photonic’ that the band really rolls up their sleeves and shows what they can do. The unsettling melodies and coiled riffs would nestle comfortably on a Cult of Luna record as the track builds and sways with an effortless skill. The measured pace is maintained on the Isis-esque ‘Push Pull’ which builds layers of guitars into something ethereal yet menacing, with the odd lapse into discordant, faster sections ensuring that the sound remains fresh. Things get even better on the brilliant ‘Pilgrimage of a Blackheart’ which combines the melodies and gnarled riffs of Mastodon with the sun-kissed stoner-pop sensibilities of Torche. The effect is one of pure triumph, and we’re not even halfway through yet.
The de-tuned Neanderthal riff that propels ‘Exile of Our Marrow’ is big enough to level a city block, with vocalist Brent Vanneste alternating between thunderous bellows and languid cleans. This juxtaposed with the shimmering melodies of the verse sections creates something that is utterly assured of its destination, yet you may find hard to follow, given the members’ propensity for tonal shifts and varying time signatures. They crack out another couple of crowd-pleasers on the surging density of ‘Slumber’ and well-honed melodies of ‘Ashore’, yet it’s the two lengthy numbers which bookend “The Hutch” that prove what a forward thinking and mega-scaled record this is. ‘Rust’ meanders through plains of atmospheric sludge, past geysers of dissonance and fields of swirling melodic light before coming to rest in a place that combines all three while the even longer ‘Tearwalker’ sounds like Red Sparowes if they could write a proper song.
At seventy-three minutes, “The Hutch” is one massive album, yet digesting it in one sitting is a frankly joyous task. The four youthful members are brimming over with talent and ideas, and are eager to show this. This is a record that will appeal to fans of Gojira as much as Isis for it bridges the gap between mainstream metal and the outer fringes of post/sludge metal with ease, while the consistency of songwriting is something that many older bands could do with learning from. A stunning effort.