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The Budos Band
Burnt Offering Joe Banks , November 28th, 2014 12:25

You know when you come across one of those albums that just sounds brilliant; a thrilling, visceral, jump-up-and-down slab of heavy dynamics and gut-punching grooves? It's like it's always existed, but you've just never heard it before? Well, The Budos Band's Burnt Offering is one of those records, and it is righteous indeed.

The Budos Band are a nine-piece instrumental group from Staten Island, who've previously released three albums' worth of hard-hitting afro-funk party music, dense with horns and congas. Their last album started to see a bit of B-movie darkness creep into their sound, the funk increasingly mired in nocturnal gloom. But Burnt Offering is something else again, the strident, urgent blast of trumpet and sax now pitted against scabrous, grinding guitar in a fight to the death.

What's most impressive about this album is the perfect alchemy of the base elements involved – this isn't fusion, but practically a whole new genre in itself. It just sounds like it was meant to be. If I had to pin it down, I'd say it was militant psychedelic funk, but that still doesn't capture the brooding atmosphere of heaviosity that this album exudes. It takes the afrobeat of Fela Kuti and the Ethiopian jazz-funk of the Walias Band , crunches it up with the hard, brass-driven sound of 70s heist movies (as epitomised by The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three), then infects it with the low-slung downer rock of obscure US proto-metal bands such as Dust and Power Of Zeus.

Opener 'Into The Fog' immediately takes the listener into this zone of darkness. The growling drone of an organ, the stark beat of a bass drum and a forbidding guitar line makes it clear that something wicked this way comes. The horns pierce the air like curling claws of mist, then the rhythm kicks in and we're off, crashing through the mean streets of a dangerous, obscured metropolis. It's an intensely powerful but funky sound, the sense of drama heightened by the Morricone-esque squeal of a solo trumpet. 'The Sticks' maintains the upbeat tempo, with a great call and response feel to the horns and a rubbernecking bassline – but then we get the first appearance of the fantastically abject guitar sound that The Budos Band use throughout the album, grimy and diseased as though played through a speaker with the cones blown. It drags the song's vibe down into a horrible morass, before the horns pull it out again, soaring majestically over the top.

It's on 'Aphasia' that the crepuscular heaviness really starts to take hold, that guitar now playing the topline, practically asphyxiating the organ, the horns delivering another punchy tattoo over its startled gasps. The afrofunk influences are still apparent, but the horns also evoke the leaden, apocalyptic sound of 70s roots reggae at its toughest, which sits perfectly with the doom rock elements. There's a breakdown to a blissful, head-nodding grind of a riff, and a great Iommi-like solo, no faff or flash, hacking its way through the black undergrowth.

'Shattered Winds' is spooked and relatively more reflective, but 'Black Hills' instantly clears the air with a fanfare of horns leading into a brilliantly sluggish guitar-led procession, an unending funeral parade with mournful brass and phasing drums. 'Burnt Offering' itself opens with an almost comically portentous chord sequence before the bass picks up the tune and the guitar scrawls a filthy horrorshow riff across it – cue the shrieking of a ghostly sax and some particularly cosmic organ. The delicate picking on the intro to 'Magus Mountain' (yes, the titles are great) has an almost blues rock feel to it, while the R&B chops of album closer 'Turn And Burn' recall the band's earlier material – but even here, the organ is eerily bleak and the trumpet solo at the end sounds mighty lonesome.

The Budos Band are the real deal, and Burnt Offering is quite a ride. For connoisseurs of heavy sounds, I can't recommend this highly enough.

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