Brendan Telford On Hey Colossus’ Dedicated To Uri Klangers
, December 2nd, 2016 15:40
The nihilistic bombast and bluster that is the noise of Hey Colossus showcases a disparate cache of men desperate to beguile, bewilder, and laugh at the demise of all around them – including themselves. Brendan Telford looks at this bludgeoning compilation that spans the band’s brutal, mystical history
Any band that takes as one half of their name something of enormous size, depth, magnitude and ability is already making a statement, promising gargantuan noise and annihilation the likes of which we mere mortals may not have the hardware to truly comprehend. A band that prefixes such a bold label with a flippant sequitur upends preconceptions, wrong-footing you before their black elixir even hits the ears. But that is how it is with Hey Colossus, a six-headed behemoth that chisel out gigantic riffs and death swell rhythms while offering absurdist allegories and priapic palpitations. Like the god of pestilence walking through a body-strewn wasteland wearing a Groucho Marx mask and googly eyes on springs. The effect is both off-putting and destructive, somehow leveling the doomed playing field, a fetid yin-yang equilibrium.
Approaching their fourteenth year of frying synapses, and having a particularly potent year in 2015 with not one but two excellent releases in In Black & Gold and Radio Static High, it might seem like the perfect time to launch a “retrospective” look at the band’s viscous trajectory. But Dedicated To Uri Klangers, a double LP that does exactly that, has actually been around for a few years – label MIE released it on 50 cassettes in 2013 to coincide with their 10th year anniversary as a band – and therefore skips out this massive jump in the band’s evolution. Yet there has been a folkloric adherence to this compilation – the tapes have melted on car dashboards, become rats’ nests in Tube station lay-bys, and burnt up on re-entry/bad trip comedowns. You shouldn’t slag off the lil battler format – In Black & Gold was released in Malaysia on cassette, 500 copies’ worth. But the kids all want the vinyl melting in their mitts, and what thee kids want, thee kids shall have…or even more simply, Henry from MIE asked the guys at a show earlier this year if he could put it out, and they said yes.
To be fair this has been a long time coming, at least in the eyes of this hardcore dyed-in-the-wool acolyte. While the ever deepening arch of the psych rock tag has been in favour on the fringes since Roky Erickson strapped on a Gibson, the movement refuses to leave any part of the world unturned – the pastoral, the desert, the ocean, space, the depths of doom. Hey Colossus are intent on molding a caustic tome then immediately breaking it to craft something new – they have been nothing if not prolific, as a quick glance at their not complete Discogs site highlights. To be truly psych rock, it seems you either need to be obtuse and reclusive, or outlandish and inexhaustible. These guys have always wanted to have their cake and smash your face in it too, intent to burnish their reputation for a ridiculous riff or a ludicrous lyric – all of which made them inadvertently all the more important to a scene too ready to disappear up its own arsehole in pompous sincerity.
Dedicated To Uri Klangers remains a disparate look back though, eschewing much of the weirder flights of fantasy and affected nuance to document a deathmarch of psych and doom brutality – and yet its relentlessness still seems to work. The first record starts with ‘War Crows’, which also opened their fourth record Happy Birthday in 2008. It was the first true taste of what Hey Colossus could conjure as a six-piece, and it was deliciously vile – still holding down an incessant psychedelic rock bent but chrome-dipping it and hurling it into the core of the earth, an unholy mixture of nihilist noise and circular cadence, delivered with unbridled fury, the purging of the sacrificial lamb.
‘How To Tell Time With Jesus’ on the other hand is a ten-minute spiral into pummeling madness, the clarion call from 2013’s Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo, the album that truly pushed them into the forefront of people’s fevered minds. The echoed vocals, shouts, garbles, all indecipherable, sounding like narcoleptic Tourette’s, hovering and barking over an oscillating beat that swells and breathes, a Krautrock meltdown with eyes piercing the cosmos. It marks Part Chimp’s Tim Cedar on the skins, a man attuned to being the centrifugal force tying down abject atonal atrocities. But he has been involved with the band for some time – ‘The Drang’ swings back around to 2011’s RRR, HC’s seventh album, mastered by Cedar. It is one of the more blatantly feral tracks on an album pushing the cart out into more esoteric terrain, relentlessly retaining one riff and punishing it to within an inch of its life. ‘I Am The Chiswick Strangler’ goes even further back, to 2007’s Project:Death, a release that Cedar recorded. It is a distorted scream-&-riff maelstrom at under two minutes that shows the growing pains of a band feasting on support slots of the likes of Comets On Fire and Boris.
‘Eurogrumble PTII’ from Dominant Male (2010) starts with an industrial grader, shuffling metal shavings while plugged into a faulty phaser – or so it feels. The first marked “different” track on the mix, it is an attempt to strip-mine the inner ear while trying to maintain a modicum of tempo – a measured yet fervent exercise in mainlining a modulated racket. ‘Drug Widow’ is Envy slowed down and given a lethal dose of stoner rock and Sabbath histrionics; and finally some space and silence in ‘Warmer The Belter’, although no less claustrophobic, a lurking sprawl of spectral crawl that drags and groans, rattling chains in a black netherworld. It is where the band flex their muscles by leaving the muscularity behind and embracing the macabre.
Record numero deux takes the deep riff/skittish effects and feedback/roiling rhythms approach from the onset, although ‘Hot Grave’’s Danzig-esque vocals are as gurning as they are grotesque – it’s the epitome of monolithic psychosis. Another Cuckoo… track, when split like this it sounds worlds apart from ‘How To Tell Time Like Jesus’ – and perfectly encapsulates the method in the metal madness. Another fantastic curveball comes through with ‘Witchfinder General Hospital’, a nigh on impossible to find song from 2012 - 100 copies were made on a tiny Plymouth label, all eaten up by rabid Supersonic fans that year. It is a swirling space psych rock wormhole of a track that is hypnotic and devastating in equal measure, sixteen minutes of white hot electric lava coating all with pulsing intensity, like early White Hills. ‘Fire Up The Tambourine’ surges with a white heat intensity, the drumming incendiary in its propulsive head pounding, the screeched lyrics and wah pedal stretched to their limits; the caterwaul, cauterized punk wail of ‘Horsehead’; the utter doom death dirge of closing blackout ‘Wait Your Turn’. The vinyl version of Dedicated to Uri Klangers includes one extra track from its cassette compatriot – Pope Long Haul III, a gravel and gruel nemesis that rolls inexorably forward with savage violence.
Writing this has been relentless and a little punishing, as I am sure reading it will be too – but then that mirrors the experience of listening to Dedicated To Uri Klangers. The band admits that some tunes should have made the cut that didn’t, but a back catalogue as vast and varied as theirs makes the task of whittling it down to “the greats” a futile and to some degree a redundant process. Because what you have here is a two hour exercise in bludgeoning catharsis, delivered with vim, vigour and a liberal gargle of venomous vinegar. There is no “right” way to listen to Hey Colossus – every album is its own unique, heaving beast – meaning that this compilation doesn’t lessen their past releases, or pilfer the best bits like a psych rock vulture. Every song feeds into that which came before, reappropriated into a homunculus of fevered fury, a pagan legacy to a band that have slaved and suffered, have given as good as they’ve got, and have the shit-eating grin to prove it. Long may they reign.