Whenever I take a train I always make sure to buy a selection of music magazines to make my journey productive. After buying 3 rock magazines, there were quite a few bands I wanted to check out when I got home – about 20 in fact – and so by the time I got to number 19 without any decent finds, I was fairly depressed. Get to number 20 though, Bovine, and I found what I was looking for. This band sounded nothing like the You Me At Six look-alikes I was hearing so much of in Kerrang etc. They instantly stood out in a “Help my face is going to fall off, but I think I like it” kind of way – which is always a good sign! This band definitely meant business, and I finally had something to get excited over.
The more I think about it, the more I think I saw Bovine support aussie tech metal band Circles at The Garage in Islington last Autumn. At the time, I remember being fairly unimpressed at the music I was hearing. Although the crowd were going absolutely mental and clearly loved it, I was quietly wishing for them to move on and make room for the band I was there to see as the grungy thrash I was hearing was not the melodic finesse I wanted there and then.
But here I am, listening to their album online after a recommendation in Metal Hammer Magazine, and I’m excitedly jumping between songs to see what sound this band can pull off next. Citing influences in QOTSA, Soundgarden and Baroness, the album “The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire” is an intense listen to say the least. Often jumping right in to a sludgy guitar groove or building up to it after a milder melodic intro, Bovine are an angry, angry band that have the skills to write some epic rock tracks. This isn’t music for the faint hearted.
“Ghost Chair”, “Thank F**k I aint you” and the title track have some of the most memorable riffs and melodies on the album. The dissonant chords chill you down to your very core, and the fury in his voice can only be described as resembling those heard in legendary tech metal band SiKth. The grooves made by the drums and the big heavy bass are front and centre in this music, whilst the often piercing guitar adds to the feeling that this is music that is made for a mosh pit. Even sitting here in a quiet flat on my own I can feel myself getting pumped up by this music. The QOTSA “Stoner rock” element is also easy to hear – it’s like I’m hearing Every Time I Die, but I like it so much more. This music is dark, very dark, but without music like this, how are we meant to appreciate the light?
The album isn’t just a non-stop rock fest though. The album is nicely paced, with moments like the intro to “Heroes are what?”, the quiet interlude of “Aneugenic” and well placed, quiet (but short) bridges throughout playing contrast to the madness of the rest of the album. Pacing is often my issue with heavy rock/metal albums, but this one has found a nice balance. Then, out of the blue, tense intros like that found in “I will make you real” smash you back into reality, and you’re off moshing away.
But, as with all music like this, unless you are a metal head through and through (which I’m not), there is a specificity to this style of music which means it can sit in your iTunes for weeks at a time without being heard. For me, it is just too angry and too challenging to become a regular part of my listening. Unless I am in a specific mood, I’ll often find myself looking at the band name or the album cover and going “Oh God, not now” – but when I am in the mood: “Oh God, NOW!”
This music does have its moments, definitely, but for people with rounded music tastes, this album sits at a certain end of the spectrum that is rarely delved into. I’m glad music like this is getting written – it really is a middle finger up to the commercial, accessibility of a lot of bands at the moment…but can I imagine listening to this music all the time? Absolutely not.