Review by Jay Plent.
Cambridge’s music scene has always had a surprising hardcore undercurrent to it. What other city can produce names like Pink Floyd and Mallory Knox, bands so utterly on the opposite end of the rock music spectrum? Probably many actually, but I’m not going to go out of my way to cite every conceivable example. If you’re a long-term Stabbed Panda reader, you’re probably here for Cambridge music, right? Anyway, the point is that 3-piece BansheeVa have delivered an album that unites the city’s prog-rock past and heavy rock present, crafting a short but instrumentally brutal album that calls to mind the likes of Mogwai, LIARS, Battles and Biffy Clyro. On vibe alone, BansheeVa are as psychedelic as they are angry.
The album, also titled BansheeVa, lives up to its name. Howling and haunting its way through a variety of rock tropes, it starts out high in energy and fast in delivery before transitioning into more melodic cuts like Space Invaders. Tracks like Woman From Mars crank out screaming fury over lunatic drums and distorted to death bass, driving home the band’s lo-fi, high-intensity mantra. Short, sour and aggressive, the opening two tracks hammer home a distinct sense of unrest and make for very entertaining appetisers of what’s to come.
Mostly instrumental, with pockets of vocals either distorted to death or buried beneath many layers of boxy drums and crunchy guitar, BansheeVa take few moments to showcase voices. The one notable exception to this being Sleep When I’m Dead, a track so floaty and clean that its inclusion is a little jarring, especially alongside an otherwise brutal set of songs. But it’s very pleasant. There’s some delay-soaked drums and twinkling chimes towards the tail end of the track that really flex the band’s experimental muscle.
There are lots of tasty ideas throughout this album. Janus is surprisingly toe-tapping, combining jerky riffs with a spacey mid section very reminiscent of Failure. Whereas tracks like F.O.Y.C start out as an incessant jam, Janus launches into its meaty hook straight away. It’s a welcome curve-ball, and by far the most memorable track, with moments of experimental production that other spots on the album lack. However, the lunacy is kicked up a gear by the fantastically titled (and fantastically long) closing track Fuck You And The Horse You Rode In On. A multi-faceted, at times bordering on operatic finale, it features multiple parts smashing together and polishes off the album nicely like the final melee attack against a Nazi zombie.
As an experience, BansheeVa is not for the faint-hearted. At times it’s energetic, at others intense. There are occasions where the production could have more depth to really embellish the songs with greater detail, but on the whole the songs contain more than enough shifts and changes to keep the record afloat. Contrast is one of its key strengths. Drawing upon the past and present, with sidesteps and twists throughout, BansheeVa pack a whole lotta oomph into their music.
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