These Belgian noiseniks are back with their first long player since 2016’s “I Ate Myself To Grow Twice As Big”. 30,000 Monkeys still seem very intent on crushing skulls and making ears bleed with their own very peculiar brand of sludge, noise and drone. One shouldn’t judge albums by their sleeves but their mix of black metal logo and a photo that really belongs to a bad 80’s B-grade pop group might not turn new comers on. The proof is always in the pudding though…

A frantic blast of noise and screamed vocals let you know the Monkies are on the loose with opening track “Miles Of Smiles”. Pretty, it ain’t. Squalling guitar contributes to the cacophonous mess and pretty much picks up where their previous LP left off. The band aren’t afraid to experiment with shades of Barrett era Pink Floyd peeking through on “An Earnest And Sincere Feeling”. Such tangents are quickly crushed by grimy sludge dirges. When they hit a big riff it’s very sweet but there’s a slightly disjointed feel and at this early stage it’s doubtful whether this album grabs the attention.

Stabs of electronica appear on “He Men” and the meaty riffs make it one of the better tracks so far. Some bands balance light and shade but 30,000 Monkies use extremes of both which some might find appealing and others might question. “The Fist Of Impending Joy” is such a point in note. A claustrophobic track, it’s at times thin and at others unyieldingly heavy. For this scribe’s mind the standout track is “And Ever” with an electric, Eastern flecked introduction and a building atmosphere proving to be a calm before the storm. This instrumental has an almost imperious quality that complements closer “Cluck Me Up” where ambience gives way to raw brutality. There’s a certain desperation to their delivery incorporating elements of Sepultura in the bouncing riff which sees off the album in more solid style.

“Are Forever” is a reasonable album where the strength lies in the second half. The LP comes in a shade under 40 minutes and its economy helps keeps some focus. 30,000 Monkies are very quirky and have found their niche which they sound as though they’re going to stick to unwaveringly.

(6/10 Johnny Zed)