Keelhaul: Triumphant Return To Obscurity CD


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Ohio-based math-thug-rock ensemble Keelhaul hasn’t been heard from since 2003’s Subject to Change Without Notice, but that album’s title was quite clearly a lie, because nothing much has changed on this release. They’re still pummeling away in their Shellac-meets-Karma to Burn mode, piling knuckle-dragging riffs atop intricate and ever-shifting drum patterns. Occasionally, one member or another will shout some barely intelligible lyrics into the maelstrom, but for the most part, Keelhaul prefers to pummel the listener with instrumental skill. Even when there are vocals, as on “High Seas Viking Eulogy,” they don’t come in until the last two minutes of a five-and-a-half-minute song, and it’s not like there’s a hook or a chorus to hang onto. The first song to follow conventional songwriting rules is “THC for One,” and even that’s unlikely to achieve radio airplay, with its barbed, Gang of Four-esque guitar line and psychedelically treated choruses. There are moments of beauty here, particularly on “Waiting for the Moon to Speak,” but overall, the title of Keelhaul’s Triumphant Return to Obscurity is a totally justified self-fulfilling prophecy — they don’t seem to want to cater to anyone but themselves in making their music, and more power to ’em.

Phil Freeman