Wot Gorilla? - Kebnekaise
Wot Gorilla? are unashamed of their love for prog. Their name is itself derived from an instrumental track on Genesis' seminal Wind and Wuthering album, and on this, their debut full length they embrace the genre's ideal of constant change. Very few sections are repeated, instrumentation is complex and lyrics are cryptic. However, they carry it all off with a pop sensibility and post-hardcore emotiveness. This results in an album that is both expansive and full of surprises, yet at times also direct and accessible, either by way of a short-lived vocal hook, jittery guitar line, or punishing break-down.
On the sonic map, Wot Gorilla? occupy a space equidistant from the current crop of UK math-rock/pop acts and the similarly prog-enthused US post-hardcore of Coheed and Cambria and The Fall of Troy, and head out to explore this territory in all directions. Opening instrumental 'I Beat Up the Bathroom. I'm Sorry.' introduces their penchant for syncopated rhythms and intricate Kinsella-inspired guitar work and sets up expectations for first song proper 'Melted Welly', which continues in a similar vein albeit with Mat Haigh's distinctively high tenor entering the fold. This element of their sound particularly invites comparison to Coheed, particularly given his fondness for switching from singing to falsetto lullaby tones, and indeed as the record goes on, it often-times sounds like an extension of The Second Stage Turbine Blade, sharing not only sonic similarities but also the palpable frisson of a young band having fun whilst experimenting with their capabilities.
They do avoid the pitfalls of prog wankery however, thankfully there's no overblown concept, and the musical complexity does truly 'make progress' rather than treading water in a way that only guitarists will appreciate. Of course, this constant 'journeying' aspect can have one detrimental effect in that when certain 'moments' resonate beyond the listening experience it can prove difficult to recall the songs from which they hail. The almost-chorus refrain of "Holy B'Jesus!," where Haigh belts out over a driving chordal riff, does have you thinking they should perhaps go in for that sort of thing more often.
On the whole though, where the focus may be slightly off at times, Kebnekaise is an extremely promising debut by a band able to invert the stereotypes of a much-maligned musical tradition and create something fresh. Closing with single 'Snow White', with its schizophrenic alternation between bouncing dance-rock riffery and brutal, rasping hardcore, part of us doesn't ever want them to settle if it means losing out on such fun.