After sifting through yet another stack of electronic promos in the endless quest to discover and discuss, I sometimes question why I write about heavy music.  I mean, is this it?  Is this as far as we can extend as a cultural anomaly, to become a predictable platform for a predictable angst?  I realize that certain sonic heydays have passed for metal, but I’d love to know what the future holds and if it’s worth the ride.  I do have other responsibilities to attend to, in theory.

Perhaps I’m simply a jaded man who couldn’t feel less of a connection toward most of what modernly qualifies as metal; after a certain unspoken point, histrionics and hairstyles become a difficult form of expression to justify to our loved ones.  Or perhaps it’s the digital-age-old argument that we’re still figuring out how to wade through the muck in the expanding pool of accessibility.  Either way, I can attest that discovering fresh sounds is a bit of a modern and most certainly a global chore.

It’s for all these reasons that when I do find something stimulating, such as Huxwhukw from Australian instrumentalists Serious Beak, that the time spent hunting with a discerning eye becomes incredibly valuable in hindsight.  In essence, I’ve found something that I’ll keep with me forever.

Simply put, Huxwhukw is a bad-ass, mostly vocal-free record that playfully flirts with several branches of the metal discipline while comfortably interjecting elements of prog- and post-rock.  It’s a tight, swirling cyclone of propelling riffs and kick-ass drumming that is breathtaking in its execution.  In fact, it’s so heavy that there’s little-to-no distortion for the first five minutes.  They’re in no hurry to rush, and like a great thriller you hang on for the ride.  When it’s hard, it hits with the impact of a Mastodon, Meshuggah and Keelhaul gumbo infused with Dillinger-grind; when they switch gears they simply allow the music to breathe, empowering the heavier tracks to feel like a straight-on assault from some serious rockers who could give a fuck about an overdub.  The only miss on Huxwhukw may be the failed psychedelia of “Fljota,” which comes off as aimless.  Never fear, they quickly find their way back.

I’ve been feeling a bit guilty over my Electro Quarterstaff criticism several months back (simply because I’m sensitive like that) but bands like Serious Beak remind me of what is missing from most and abundant in some.  They have that ability to be genuinely heavy and technical without somersaulting into a saturated mess of unmemorable wanking.  It reinstalls the hope that things are moving in the right direction for metal and that patience truly is a virtue for a demographic of entitled and endlessly dissatisfied consumers.  Huxwhukw ends on an abrupt note, implying that the final, pummeling riff of “Taheu Nadryvy, Taheu!” could continue for as long as you could stomach.  It fits well for a band whose songwriting process seemingly has no boundaries yet never overstays their welcome.

— Aaron Maltz

. . .