Electro Quarterstaff – Aykroyd

Electro Quarterstaff

Aykroyd

01. The Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon
02. McNutty
03. Waltz of the Swedish Meatballs
04. Unholy Gravy
05. Descent By Annihilation Operator
06. The Blacksmith
07. Stroganoff
08. Japanese Upside Down Cake

[10/18/11]
[Willowtip]

There are several kinds of instrumental bands. Most of them are ‘shred your brains out’ style, a la Jeff Loomis‘s Zero Order Phase. Then there’s the ‘just write cool songs’ school of Levi/Werstler or Christian Muenzner. Finally, there is the combination school of ‘write really good songs, but they’re also super technical but not shreddy’, a la Animals as Leaders. Electro Quarterstaff are of the final category; there’s barely any shredding of the conventional sense on Aykroyd. But they have three extremely skilled guitar players, and this is perhaps the best execution of the triple-axe-wield I’ve heard so far. All of the songs are very precise on both songwriting and technical playing, and they also make for very good songs. This isn’t like Brain Drill though; every song has identifiable sections and nothing is ever over the top.

A problem many instrumental albums suffer from is being hard to relate to/remember, but Aykroyd isn’t one of those. Every song has its own distinct feel, and at any given time there’s so much going on that repeat listenings are a requirement. All three guitar players play completely different things, yet it all comes together somehow. For music nerds, there’s more complexity in this than any other album we’ve reviewed this year — and that’s saying a lot. Complexity that you can follow and be amazed at is indeed a blessing, but it can sometimes be a curse too. Many bands that try to be complex end up being too complex, but Electro Quarterstaff aren’t one of those bands either. Every moment on this record is extremely listenable while being technical. Not only that, but each song has its own individual theme, its own melody and its own direction.

There are two trappings that Electro Quarterstaff do fall into. The first one is the inevitable ceiling that every ‘insanely technical’ band hits: when you’re playing so many notes, it’s hard to distinguish between them all. Now, as I said, each song has its own thing going for it, but in the end many of them devolve into riff salads, even though the salads are of very different flavors. This does not bother me, as I’m a huge music nerd and I devote ridiculous amounts of time to deciphering complicated patterns in each song, but I understand how this might not be for everyone. Let me rephrase that: This is a very involving record. Don’t get me wrong, there are very beautiful songs in here, but you’ll get back what you invest, and most people don’t invest that much into music nowadays.

The other pitfall that Electro Quarterstaff unfortunately fall into is that of production. Don’t fear, you can hear each individual note played by each instrument and easily identify all of them and separate the riffs, but the tone used is a bit headache-inducingly sharp, which makes extended listening a bit troublesome — which is where the catch is; to understand this album you need to listen to it for a long time. Let me make one thing clear though, it is definitely not bad production that is aural murder unlike some other bands we recently covered, but we’re so close to perfection here that every mistake sticks out more.

Aykroyd is a deep, dense showcase of very high level songwriting that only few would truly appreciate, but for those who would, it’s excellent. It just requires a lot of involvement and is not easy listening at all, but I know a lot of people who would be totally fine with that. The only obvious hiccup is the slightly sharp production, but this is otherwise a very fine album.

Electro Quarterstaff – Aykroyd gets…

4/5

– NT

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