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Himalayan: Rock on an epic scale
on 1 April 2014
Band Of Skulls, the heavy riff-rockers from Southampton, released their third album, Himalayan, in 2014. It takes the sound of their previous two long-players and soups it up a little with slicker production and an overall higher aggregate tempo. The huge, stomping Led Zep riffs haven't disappeared, they've simply been incorporated into a slightly more mainstream, higher-octane sound. In my opinion, the slight changes that they have incorporated onto this album were probably needed. As brilliant as Baby Darling Doll Face and Sweet Sour were, there was a danger that if the trio returned with a third album plying exactly the same wares as before then the fan base would have been a touch bored but, instead, Band Of Skulls have evolved without totally killing their core sound and the musical values which made people love them so much in the first place. This album still sounds unmistakeably like Band Of Skulls, but with a new outfit and a bit of a snazzy haircut. It's like they've been listening to a bit of Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Queens Of The Stone Age and Kasabian (yes, seriously, give Brothers And Sisters a listen) to give them inspiration as to where they should be aiming for next and it has paid dividends.
Himalayan is an album that sounds better and better the more you play it, especially when you start noticing the finer details behind the big, blustery hooks and there are so many top notch tracks here to sink your teeth into. Opening track, Asleep At The Wheel boasts a superb, stomping riff-based chorus, the title track sounds like a massive hit in waiting and is the kind of pile-driving song that makes your body move along with it involuntarily and Hoochie Coochie thunders along at full pelt, boasting a chorus bolstered by a brilliantly sleazy, twisting riff. The up-tempo indie-ballad Nightmares is a real change of pace and the contrast between the edgy verse and the grandiose, epic feel of the chorus works effectively. I Guess I Know You Fairly Well is another big song and one that will keep fans of the earlier material happy and You Are All That I Am Not threatens to be a little too ordinary until the spine-tingling instrumental break which is something very special indeed. Final track, Get Yourself Together, ends the album with a big, expansive, shimmering character, feeling more like the product of a nineties indie band than the brash, White Stripes-aping purveyors of raw rock riffs they've established themselves as, over their last couple of releases.
To surmise, this is a rather impressive and extremely enjoyable collection of songs and, although not every track is genius-level, there's nothing on Himalayan that makes me want to reach for the skip button. Yes, there is a slightly more commercial sheen to the album than their previous releases and the sparse, bombastic riffs are a little more cleverly disguised, but the big guitar hooks are still there and the material, rather than dumbing down for a wider audience, actually has a little more depth and dimension. It is simply different rather than better, but, without this evolution of their sound, I believe there would be far more critics of them if they'd stood still than what we have here, a talented trio having the courage and ability to fully explore and realise their creative range. All-in-all, Himalayan lives up to its name: rock on an epic scale.