Keelhaul - Keelhaul's Triumphant Return to Obscurity (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Keelhaul's Triumphant Return to Obscurity (2009)

Hydra Head

Keelhaul has determinedly resurrected the ghost of Killdozer's and Karp's sense of humor and attitude, but this time as a progressive thrash rock band. And while the band riffs harder than Geddy, Neal and Alex, you don't have to worry about all those pathos getting in the way. Singing is sparse; time signatures are often turned on their head; syncopation is a requirement, but song titles like "Everything's a Napkin" and "THC for One" put the kibosh on taking anything too seriously.

It's hard to place where the band has been and where they're going. They play at their best when they let their prog instincts take over. "El Matador" is a series of furious riffing and polyrhyhtmic drum fills. When the band slows down and explores new melodic territory is when they begin to challenge their listener to try and peg them down into one category or the other.

The band is playing at their best with the opener, "Pass the Lampshade." They seem determined in flexing their prog muscles as hard as they can and proving just how hard and fast they can play with strange times and syncopations without needing to worry too much about melodic interludes.

But then, as one listens to the opening swell of guitar harmonics in "Kirby Wurm," it's hard to discredit the band for pushing into any territory they damn well want to. The song develops into one of the best ambient metal tracks that could rival Isis and Pelican any day before swirling into some furious metal hybrid. .

If the band doesn't take themselves seriously, the listener shouldn't be expected to take the band seriously. But there's a sophistication to the band's chops, even in their most unsophisticated moments.