There are only a couple of things you can hear that you can’t seem to categorize into a genre. The first time I heard Captain Beefheart, I knew it was basically sped up blues with jazz structuring. But in a world where most found him hard to understand, I just really liked it. Complexities in music are what make things interesting. And while so many bands seem hell-bent to prove that they’re the next big thing, originality will always trump the idea of sounding like everyone else. I’ve always contended that Houston’s Only Beast sounds like no one else, while also championing their energetic live shows. On their latest album, Again, they not only forge their own path, they burn the bridge that got them there. Full of rock throttle and intense vocals, there are songs here that sound like pain and desperation chimed from the highest towers. This band always does things in a fresh and new way, and the end result of their characteristically novel approach is one of the most intriguing and engagingly different albums I’ve heard in a very long time.
Opening with the immense guitar squeals and fretboard runs of “Again,” the vocals and guitar come in at a fevered pace and ferocious intensity that immediately forces you to pay attention. At first glance, you think that it’s hard rock, but if you can dig in just a couple of notes deeper you should find that with the way in which the drums applaud in the foreground alongside the guitar and vocals you’re being virtually skull-slammed with sound. This continues with the slower paced and more progressive structure of “18 Dimensions Old.” Keep in mind, this isn’t some Alan Parsons Project kind of sound. This is love, this is hate, this is emotion raw and unfettered where the howl of the guitar and the snap of the kit are molded and performed while the vocals remind you that music can convey more than just the same ol’ same ol’. About half way in, the trio turns things up several notches to the point that you feel the room is about to catch fire.
The intensity never seems to let up, and by the third track, “Any Me,” you better be ER-ready because your mind will be blown and your ears will be leaking blood. The track is loud and unruly but far from brash. The masterful tone of the way these three perform together is definitely something amazing to behold. While they take a little of a different direction in the beginning of “Werebird,” the build up that follows feels like a ship that’s taken on too much water, but for some reason hasn’t sunk just yet. With the harmonics from the guitar, the way the toms sound when they’re struck — and oh those vocals — it’s like the band is attempting to tip over a full stack of amplifiers with a sound that can’t be quieted, even when they try to quiet themselves halfway through the song. There’s a desperation in the vocals that stick with you like a dirty secret, and while the band embodies traditional rock tones, this is more ahead than most rock your ears will intercept.
The band brings in a more traditional sound on ”Something Else,” but it’s the disdain and sheer power of the following song, “Loveletter,” that should stand out to you. It’s not a traditional track by any means, though there are elements that seem traditional at first. The guise of that is lifted in the way the band doesn’t hesitate to do things in a completely different way. Even with the more stripped down elements here, they’re not really as stripped down as far as sound structures go. There’s so much happening that this band can’t be bothered to be traditional, which is what makes them work so well. There’s a fuzzy growl that comes in on “Meek” that mixes with drums that sound like they’re being played in an open warehouse. It’s a winning mixture. Two tracks later, the album comes to an end with “King of Rot.” Again, what sounds like what will be a traditional rock song is quickly changed up by how these three approach songwriting. It’s almost as if they practice their parts separately, only to collide them together later in a way that works better than anyone before them. The raw nature of the song feels like the amplifier might catch fire before the song ends. And if it did, the resulting pyrotechnic display would give a firebender a run for his money.
This could easily be one of the most intriguing albums I’ve heard in a long time. By taking a completely different approach to how they craft a song, Only Beast gives the listener hope that there are still bands out there who want to carve their own path rather than follow the herd. Even if you can’t fit this album into any one genre, it shouldn’t matter because you should still like it anyway.
You can stream the album at all of the usual places, or purchase it directly from them here. You can hear these songs in person tonight at Walter’s on the release party for Again. The all-ages show will feature performances from The Wheel Workers, A Sundae Drive, and will have visuals from FLCON FCKER with doors at 8 pm and a $10 cover.