All You Need To
18 August 2014
by Ruth Booth
It’s the disappointment, mostly. We’ve all fallen into the same trap, fooled into thinking that, because of the names involved, they would make so much more than the sum of their parts. Are we just victims of our own expectations? Or is something else going on with the debut from EscapeTheCult, the supergroup from alumni of A Perfect Circle, Primus, Uneven Structure, Kamlath and King Diamond?
After all, there is no sole weak link in this album. The guitars are excellent (‘This Time Will Come’ in particular). The drums? Faultless throughout. Matthieu Romarin is a vocal Stratovarius. The problem comes when you put them together. Intertwining guitar lines scrape against each other as the rhythm section skitters underneath (‘Backfire’). On more than one occasion, Romarin’s backing vocals sound like they were recorded for a completely different song to every other instrument, save the main vocal line.
There are so many glorious almost moments – witness the atmospheric finger-picked intro to ‘Feel The Flight’ – but the initial promise slopes off, the rhythm section gives little purchase, and soon you’re lost in the lolloping zombie of a song. It’s not awful, but you start to wonder if these five albeit brilliant musicians actually heard each others parts before committing this to tape. It’s an album of solos, as if not one of them was willing to obstruct the creativity of the other – or they simply didn’t have the sense to stay out of each other’s way.
Now, experimentation isn’t exactly unexpected from a pedigree like Primus, Uneven Structure and King Diamond – bands who built reputations on non-conformity or box-smashing thought. Yet Uneven Structure are slaves to their polyrhythms. King Diamond are harmonic bloodhounds. Even Primus have their wilfully shambolic eccentricity to guide them, and arguably the tightest discipline of the three. This isn’t about leadership or gimmickry, but focus – and each of those bands has it in spades.
EscapeTheCult, by contrast, have no apparent guiding star – nor any real sense of stretching themselves, for that matter. So you come away from this record with little idea of who this band are or what they’re trying to do. It sounds like a recording of a between tour buddy jam – and not in the good way. It’s Dali attempting Pollock, using Monet’s later colour palatte and Van Gogh’s brushstrokes. And in the end, it simply doesn’t work.
I hate to speak ill of the ill (drummer Tim Alexander is recovering from major heart surgery), but I’m left wondering what made them put this out so early. No doubt All You Need To will be heralded as some experimental union of grand masters of alternative rock, but frankly, this is just a wee bit pants.
Sounds Like: Five geniuses all talking at once.
Standout Tracks: Um….