I picked up this EP after watching Colours to Shame perform at TechFest. That was my first exposure to this band from Glasgow. I realised that there was something interesting going on. Experimental and progressive in style, and with jazz, hardcore and other elements, the category is less important than the blend. It’s plainly not easy listening as music with inbuilt irregularity and changeovers never could be. The “colours” in their name and branding are evident. I welcomed the opportunity to listen to their recorded work as I had an inkling that a one-off live performance on my part could not do justice to the complexity of their work. And I could listen to it again and again if I wanted to, and maybe allow it to embed itself in my psyche.
After a spooky and atmospheric opening to set the scene, away we go on the appropriately titled “Adventure Call”. A discordant riff and hardcore vocals take us into a maelstrom of irregular action. I am reminded of Ephel Duath’s “Pain is Necessary to Know”. The drums break in like a burglar entering a house and the discordance takes on a frantic but captivating aspect. This is a musical kaleidoscope. I hear the strains of jazz. Imagine an umbrella being turned inside out, and its colours and shape changing. Fast and engaging, each technical twist is a delight. These guys are giving Zero Hour a run for their money in the quality of their musical statements. It could be a mess but it’s tightly controlled and absorbing. From somewhere comes an emotive clean voice. It’s a bit flat but there’s no time to stop. “Adventure Call” punches its way neatly into “Chocomeegah”’s experimental tones. There are more hardcore screams.
My brain is beginning to become fried like a mars bar. A jazz-infused guitar provides delicate touches. Yet it’s fundamentally hard. There’s a brief simple line. That’s rare. Colours to Shame play with us in this sea of sound. But there’s no arrogance as we are just swept along the progressive tide. Did I hear the line “life has no sense”? Hmm, best not to try to make sense of this, I thought, as we are guided into a mellow jazz passage – utterly sublime and perfectly timed to indulge us. From the embers of this passage an imperious section emerges, fronted by the hardcore vocals but driven forward by more uncompromising technical metal. “Chocomeegah” fades out eerily. We don’t “repeat for eight and fade” round here. “Born Survivor” is another fusion of technical and prog metal. I detect mathcore in there. As ever the movements are irregular but it’s always going forward. The musicianship is supreme. I like this work for the same reasons that I like Ephel Duath – there’s stuff going on everywhere and you don’t know which way it’s going to go. When you do know, the discoveries increase and the pleasure heightens. Tension and drama fall out of it from all sides. “In Search of Sasquatch”, a track I particularly appreciated at TechFest, then comes crashing down on us with its heavy jazz-progressive rhythm and hardcore vocal delivery. The guitars play with us once more. The pace picks up. We’re taken into an exhilarating passage before dark clouds descend. The atmosphere is now of death metal with a jazz infusion. An impressive drum section blends into a majestic guitar line, reminiscent of Opeth at this point. This monster slows down again and the jazz guitar tantalizes us before the world of Colours to Shame takes on epic proportions. “In Search of Sasquatch” is another absorbing piece. It has great structure and drama, signing off finally with a sad and melancholic end. We’ve covered an awful lot of ground over the 30 minutes of this ep.
Colours to Shame’s logo is a clown. There are many faces to this clown, which looks uncannily like Ronald McDonald with a green monster coming out of his stomach. Make what you will of that. Complex and never frightened of experimentation, the music takes us to other places and could easily run away from the listener. But it doesn’t because it’s done with clarity and precision. Moments are not wasted in self-indulgence. This isn’t about “look at us and see how good we are”. There is a mix of gentle eccentricity and hard metal. I never felt left behind. I can see that Colours to Shame have a wide creative repertoire, which is great news for their future and for those who appreciate this riot of technicality and invention. There’s a special talent at work here. That’s why I’ve indulged myself by playing “Vilos” every day since I first picked it up.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)