Giraffe Tongue Orchestra
23rd September 2016 – Party Smasher Inc.
01. Adapt Or Die
03. No-One Is Innocent
04. Blood Moon
05. Fragments & Ashes
06. Back To The Light
07. All We Have Is Now
08. Everyone Gets Everything They Really Want
09. Thieves And Whores
10. Broken Lines
In 2011, Mastodon and The Dillinger Escape Plan headed out on tour together – first across the US, then onwards into Europe. Something magical must have happened over the course of those tours, as Giraffe Tongue Orchestra has followed Killer Be Killed to become the second side-project/supergroup to feature members of both bands. Remarkably, both projects also feature drummers who have had a say behind the kit for The Mars Volta as well – so of course a certain amount of comparison is inevitable.
Whereas Killer Be Killed saw Greg Puciato and Troy Sanders join forces with Soulfly‘s Max Cavalera and Converge‘s Ben Koller, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra features Dillinger’s mastermind Ben Weinman and Mastodon’s Brent Hinds on guitars, with Thomas Pridgen on drums, Dethklok‘s Pete Griffin on bass and is fronted by William Duvall, a man user to filling big shoes thanks to picking up Layne Staley’s microphone for Alice in Chains. Juliette Lewis was tagged as a potential lead vocalist during the band’s long gestational period, but instead has limited her involvement to backing vocals on “Back To The Light“.
It would be fair to say that, irrespective of how enjoyable it was, Killer Be Killed’s first album couldn’t quite escape out from the shadows of the band member’s histories, with obviously identifiable ‘Dillinger bits’ and ‘Mastodon bits’. However, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra is very clearly its own entity. For starters, Broken Lines is very much a rock, rather than a metal album. With no high-minded progressive concepts and very infrequent mathcore freakouts, it is a collection unashamedly no-nonsense, feel-good rock songs. At times, Broken Lines exhibits Dillinger-esque tense, nervous energy, but goes about creating it in an entirely different fashion.
It hits the ground running with the opening pairing of “Adapt or Die” and “Crucifixion” being high-octane stompers. With the focus on quality songwriting and the collection of accomplished musicians, there’s a strong case to be made that Giraffe Tongue Orchestra are alt-metal’s Velvet Revolver. Its maturity, subtlety and self-assuredness is evident in every note: nobody in this band has anything to prove, so they are free to relax and enjoy themselves. The results are intoxicating.
Whilst there are no really awkward curveballs to deal with on Broken Lines, there are still some pleasantly unexpected moments, like the distinctly disco vibe of “Everyone Gets Everything They Really Want“. Elsewhere, there are psychedelic touches and a hint of bombast that may prick up the ears of fans of Fair To Midland, or even Muse – especially on “Thieves and Liars“. Surprisingly, lead single “Blood Moon“, with its languid, fuzzed out groove, carries a passing remblance to TDEP drummer Billy Rymer’s side-project, NK. It does seem like the band have put some considerable thought into the precise tracklisting of the album, saving the bulk of the experimentation for the second half of the run-time so that it sets up the band’s identity, then gradually broadens its scope.
Greater than the sum of its parts, Broken Lines transcends the well-known identities involved in its creation to become very much its own creature, producing songs that are both instantly accessible, and with hidden depths that reveal themselves through repeat listens. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s equally clear that the band have invested that time to create something lasting and worthwhile, rather than simply waiting for the busy schedules of the constituent members to align. As such, there’s plenty here to enjoy for fans of any of the members previous work, and potentially more besides.