Originally written by Erik Thomas
There must be something wrong with me. After reading a few glowing reviews of this Ohio band’s 2nd album, and seeing words like Isis, Dillenger Escape Plan and thrash thrown around, I thought I’d check them out, listen to Subject to Change Without Notice, to see what all the fuss was about.
Well, what a mild disappointment. While certainly a classy, talented band worthy of praise for their timely and well presented album, I’m just not feeling it. I can certainly see the comparisons to Isis (Hydra Head has released some Isis material)-they are mostly vocal-less relying on the music to carry their aesthetic, and DEP could be construed through the mix of angular disjointed riffs a scattershot drumming. But the truth be told, Keelhaul are neither as monstrously dreamy as Isis or as chaotically dissonant as DEP, instead lying in a virtually instrumental no-mans land that’s entertaining but not as captivating as I was hoping, a more aggressive Dysrhythmia is more the impression I got. The rare vocals of Aaron Dallison are the usual roar/bellow used by their many contemporaries, but musically where Keelhaul try to make up for the lack of vocal emotion, they are somewhat hit/miss for me. I tried many times to absorb the short punishing vibes of tracks like “The Gooch” and the rawkin’ “The Shackelton”, but simply couldn’t find myself enamored enough to return to them with any consistent sense of satisfaction. I felt like I’d gotten to the end of the candy bar before I’d had my last fulfilling bite.
The lengthier, mainly instrumental dirges of tracks like “Drivers Bread” and “Randall”, while perfectly competent forays into metallic artistry, are lacking the true sense of expanse that Isis and Mastodon convey. Even if segmented with a few acoustic peaceful interludes to break up the discordant, unpredictable riffage (“HMG”), it seems forced and instead of counter productive to the chaos, comes across as piecemeal, even if I doubt that immensely.
This is one review I know I’ll take flack for as Keelhaul seem to be the new metal darlings, but personally I don’t find them to be as advertised. Still, an entertaining listen that will suit those that enjoy the free form jam session stylings of the band’s image free metal prose. It’s like arthouse poetry; some people get it, some don’t. I obviously don’t. But don’t let that deter you from checking out this talented act.