In 2007, when they had an average age of 15, Steak Number Eight were already winning band competitions. Four years later, still mostly teenagers, they released their first debut album, All Is Chaos, and watched the plaudits rain down upon them. It was always going to be this way that their 2013 sophomore effort was going to be their make-or-break album. Probably the name for their practice room or some hilarious Belgian in-joke (rather than a house for Mr. Bunny or Lonesome George), will The Hutch, this ma-hoo-sive 71 minute-long album (81 mins, if you buy the “bonus track-included” vinyl) be a hare or a tortoise?
Straight out of the traps, Sn8 tear lumps out of your ears with razor-sharp, angular attacks. First comes the battering squall of “Cryogenius”, then the hardcore-fuelled single “Black Eyed”. Combined, they form an ultra-violent Feed The Rhino / Converge / Poison The Well-esque alliance with screaming choruses and menacing links with plenty to offer the heart, yet little to offer the brain. However, no sooner has their tornado blown out, than out pops “Photonic”. Its complex tonal switch-up to something infinitely darker and quietly foreboding is utterly mesmeric. With a repeating line of “one of you is going to die” rattling around your skull, it plays on that classic horror-movie schtick of fear, worthlessness and false hope.
Here, the band have quickly settled down into what could best be described as a determined pacing. It is this sort of speed where they flick a switch and begin to pay mind to the smaller details. It is undoubtedly, what they do best – All Is Chaos proved that and things are no different here.
From this point forth, you’ll start hearing luminescent flourishes à la Torche, Isis-rich thundering and cherry-picked moments from the entire Baroness’ discography. There are slack-jawed, clean vocals, thick, rotational riffs and dark melodious washes to drown in. Constantly shifting, the band weave in new elements; layering up as they progress. The post-metal, Mastodonic meandering of the sublime “Pilgrimage Of A Black Heart” feeds the muscle of “Exile Of Our Marrow”. Before you know it, they’re piling malcontent upon disillusionment; sharpening the visceral ‘core edges for “The Shrine” and “Slumber”. These sudden, thrusting, sharp stabs finally relent to reveal a Tool-esque wasteland for the masterful “Ashore” and the brain flips once more.
How these young men can show such restraint for the entire 9:30 of “Tearwalker” is beyond me. It’s basically a one-key rolling maul of tones and textures; a track with unbelievable depth that might just literally floor you. If not, it will certainly glue you to the spot. It demands one of your greatest vacant, middle-distance stares. Are you prepared for that kind of intensity, because Steak Number Eight sure are? This is not only their “coming of age” album, it is a deal-maker, an organic masterpiece and, with a worldwide release pending, it
should is going to propel them onto the biggest of stages.
(9/10 John Skibeat)