Mmm. Well. Apparently VHK are Hungarian shamanic punks and the (Galloping Coroners) bit may well be the English version of their name. This is their first album for 13 years. Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra have heaped praise on them. Well Hank can talk a lot of sense but equally he would tell me to make my own fucking mind up. So I will.
First listen is…. problematic. But at least I genuinely have no preconceptions, right…?
The debut song, Handshake, doesn’t help much there. It somehow sounds as bright as that cover but comes across as an eight minute intro; nice jangling guitars, colourful melody and called out vocals swirling together in a kind of folk rock melange. It sounds lovely and bright but seems to do nothing for eight minutes but build towards ‘something’. I assume the ‘something’ is the second song Falling Into Love but it’s more than another four minutes before this song distinguishes itself from the preceding one by speeding up, gathering into a whirling wind of guitar strumming and voice that builds and…. Stops. Just as it is about to… Err, well pick your sexual anti-climax of choice and that is the effect in a nutshell first time round. For all its vivacious life, or even because of it, it is so damned frustrating it’s unreal.
Celebration Of Life tries to make up for it with the first inkling of anything like punk in a nifty, light bodied reel that kind of reminds me of early Glittertind taking a day off from metal. It is a cool, refreshing drink of a song, airy and joyous and full of character. Moons Towards East (not, I assume, the description of the direction they drop their trousers…) is back to the slower, languid semi-building style. Imagine The Alarm, back in the day, doing a brilliant musical fill in as words of wisdom are imparted. I realise somewhere around here that it’s the rhythm that gives it the feel of always seeming to be winding up to something, and the song itself that pulls against this. It still feels enormously frustrating, on that first listen and you keep wanting to scream “Cut loose! Cut loose now!”. On the other hand there really is something so wonderfully and unusually charismatic about the band. The vocals contain so much vigour and passion and life it is impossible not to warm to them.
Then… Then I realise this is obviously a tantric thing and the expectation of a musical climax is what’s holding me back and I should just enjoy the musical ride. And lo! the song leads me into a glorious, wild height of those guitars and voices and all is good with the world. Yep, I’ve been… err… listening with preconceptions.
This then is how the album works. It flows and turns and dances and the more you listen to it, the more you realise the enjoyment and the full flavour of songs like Winged Sky or the more agitated Inner Universe is to be had by just setting yourself adrift in it. More than most albums, not trying to second guess where you are going will mean the more you will fall into its arms. Yes, I had a preconception I didn’t even realise I had, and it needed to be ditched before I went back and started again from scratch. And then, second time around, my Western Industrialised Impatience boxed up and put away, even on those opening songs the vivid colours just *glow*…
They close with the rather punky little number Hun Brotherhood: Spiky, more bass driven party music that really brings to mind exuberant, bottle clutching campfire dancing. Even this excursion fits and is a nicely judged send off.
Somewhere in all this I started smiling.
OK Hank, you’re off the hook: They really are something worth hearing.
There is no metal here, scarcely anything most would recognise as punk either, but there is a real wildness that is truly captivating, and a passion and life affirming verve that slowly, subtly warms you from the inside out. For most of us this will be a different but wonderful and rewarding trip. Give it a while, a couple or so listens and it will surely nourish you.
Definitely a full body makeover then. Marvellous.