Loving the swagger of the guitars here, the knuckled licks swimming the percussive candour, that tasty swoon clinging to every note. That unmistakable Ft. Lake glow about its gills, the momentum itchy-feet switching, a Hendrix fixation swapped for a pantheon of ’70s muscle with dips into the Nice Day EP‘s “Crushed Upon The Corner” jives. If this was an anonymous white label, a question would be tickling my head excitingly with whispers of possibility — is this His Name is Alive? A question quashed by that unmistakable sweetness of vocal that sways the barometer completely in caps-locked YESes. I’ve been a fan of the band since their Livonia days, and I’ve got to say this is another feather in Warren Defever (a company’s) cap. Penned as a rock opera of sorts, it’s a Hammer House re-imagining without any Valkyrie wobbling, the rough storyline falling around a woman discovering that she’s pregnant with twins, one of which is evil. Through various rituals she hopes to rid herself of the demon baby without harming the other, a pencil-sketched pretext handsomely filled in by musical playfulness and lyrical weaves.A buzzing keyline starts proceedings, twinned to a simple melody slow-roasted on a percussive thump. The keyboards have a touch of Rick Wakeman about them — all cloaked and mysterious as secondary flutes soften things to a lilting pastoral — rawhided rather magnificently in dirty distortion, gravelly guitar pourings that grumble a more discreet thunder, the beats vending all bassy and ribcaged, seemingly echoing the ultrasound’s bounce; this track is entitled “The Examination” after all. There’s plenty of guitar love on this album as wildlings of chord follow, flung over in dynamic shifts and twangy stings, drums giving over to rockier personas amongst a forest of wah sliding trajectories like a demonic Robert Plant joyriding a crater-filled road. Then the first hint of sweetness from Andrea Morici‘s vocals hits, a vibe plucked straight from Warren’s magical vocalists closet, bringing a certain Stars On ESP-like or Karin Oliverness to the mix, a divine signature that spectre-floats the band’s entire back catalogue. It’s already a winner, but HNIA are always ready to curveball the party, and out of nowhere they mischievously shuffle the proceedings, muck round with the combination lock to your heart on dexterous diversions, paddling upstream on elasticised pummels, burning a mythology of repeat riffery as they go — a thirteen minute opener that has you gagging for more.
Acoustic strums introduce the second track, “See You In A Minute,” a beautifully-recorded drip of strings before chugging out a jigger-jag of electric and high-energy percussion, the vocals skating smoothly over the agitation distance-run in flamboyant fretworks. Warren’s magpie mind forges new synapses from the past, a spin in blaring colours. It’s deliriously hot, that bass rattling beneath the vocal doubles, saxophone injections scaffolding the intensity pyramid higher… suddenly snapping off at its zenith for “I’m Getting Alone” to shimmer-vex a Beach Boy‘s oeuvre. A drama that shunts the tracks together, blurs the album’s diversions, keeps the surprises coming, sneaking in a bit of Black Sabbath patter and a (maybe unintentional) homage to The Sweeney, that rather lovely water-treading and sparking acousticka of “African Violet Casts A Spell.”Naturally I’m more than a bit biased, but there’s lots to love here, snipping at your emotions in mix and match combos, subtle ulcerations of weirdness everywhere bespeckled in overdubbed sensations, vocal gymnastics. That constant peppering of light and dark, those sliding doors begetting oases of shimmering glitter that literally melt in your ear as on “I Will Disappear You;” and of course the wavering willow of sheer singability, weaving a hypno-hold on the whole patchwork. Brilliant stuff that has me itching to see a staged version.