11 November 2011
by Hugh Platt
This album has been a long, long, long time coming. Having been evangelising Turbowolf since before Thrash Hits even existed, and it’s only now, nearly four years down the line, that a full-length has emerged from the Bristol-based band. In that time, the ‘wolf have slimmed down from a more electronic five-piece to a leaner, grizzlier quartet. They have a completely different library of songs to those they played the first time I saw them shake the tits off of an unsuspecting London pu-venue. They’ve gone from playing to half a dozen people in East London basements, to opening up for KoRn in arenas across Europe. Could they still provide me with those same feelings – those of excitement and the that of the urge to tell everyone, everyone about this band – after all that time, after all those changes and developments?
Of course they can. You bloody mugs.
The true strength of Turbowolf’s debut is that it has been able to capture just enough of the wild energy of a ‘wolf live show and combined it with enough studio precision to bring out the darkly neon-electronic side of their music, without compromising either the crispness or the muscle behind Andy Ghosh’s guitar tone. If this album has been mixed differently, Chris Georgiadis’ keyboards could’ve sat uncomfortably on top of everything, like a particularly incongruous cucknoo nest-invasion. Even at their most obtrusive – such as the bleepdy-bloop intro to the album’s apocalyptically-minded closer, ‘Let’s Die’ – they always feel like a necessary component to Turbowolf’s maniacal recipe, and never once feel like an element that’s been added simply to provide the album with an additional aural texture.
This is partly down to how Andy Ghosh’s guitar tone manages to straddle both a wicked snarl and an almost-bouncy playfulness – the favourable White Zombie comparisons that it’s occasionally brought Turbowolf over the years still resonate today. It gives Turbowolf the flexibility to play hard or play weird or play hard and weird at the same time – exactly the qualities that have allowed them to play in support of Dimmu Borgir and share stages with the more ridiculous hipster nonsense plying it’s trade in East London fleapits. Underpinning it is a satisfyingly rubbery low-end, provided by the bass work of Joe Baker. It provides a more powerful low end for the albums moments of thicker boogie, be it in the speedier shuffles for the likes of ‘Read & Write’, or the more stop-start approach to riffing on tracks like ‘Bag ‘O Bones’.
Watch the video to ‘Read & Write’ by Turbowolf:
Turbowolf don’t rely on these techniques exclusively though – if anything, when they play against their own conventions, the end result can be even more rewarding. Take ‘Son (Sun)’ for example – Initially ditching distortion in favour of janglier guitar tones, it presents an introspective dimension that initially feels at odds with the tracks that have come before it, only for Turbowolf to suddenly wig out into a bass-heavy elastic-band bastard of a riff that claps you round the head with both how surprising it is, and with its simple joyfulness. Similarly, the cosmic, almost ethereal approach used for the first half of ‘All The Trees’ is greatly juxtaposed by the serious and intense grit of the second half. It’s a stark lesson in hard/soft dark/shade songwriting, and while some people might find it lack subtlety, no-one can deny that it doesn’t lack for impressive impact.
If anything, the only moment of the album that doesn’t quite nail it for me is when Turbowolf play it as close to straight as I suspect they are able. ‘Things Could Be Good Again’ goes for a breakneck punk-rock pace, but unlike the declaration of war they achieved early on in the album with the similarly-paced ‘Seven Severed Heads’, here it feels looser and less cohesive. But given that Turbowolf dropping down a gear is still of a markedly higher standard than most British rock music can dare to dream of, it’s a minor quibble at best, and one that I’m shoe-horning into this review for the sole purpose of trying to demonstrate I’m capable of showing even the slightest measure of critical neutrality when it comes to this assessing this record.
Watch the video to ‘A Rose For The Crows’ by Turbowolf:
About a year ago, I got hold of a very early mix of this album – the tracklisting varied by one or two tracks, but it was a solid template of the final product I’m reviewing now. I’ll confess that for a long while I feared that because I’d been living with so many of these songs for so long, when it came to finally giving this album an official going-over for Thrash Hits, the nervous rush of energy I’d felt upon first hearing them would’ve dissipated through over-familiarity with them. But quite the opposite has happened – while giving this album one more spin as checked this review for typos, I felt that giddy rush and desire to shout about Turbowolf at the top of my lungs to any and all people within earshot even more so than before. I’m now questioning how I could’ve ever feared that it wouldn’t be worth the wait – it would’ve been worth twice this wait.
Buy it, you mugs.
Sounds Like: 13 songs and 40 minutes of cosmically-minded, electronically-inclined, endlessly digestible riff worship.
Top Tracks: Seven Severed Heads, Son (Sun), Let’s Die.