No Hawaii - Snake My Charms
Produced by Carlos Sepúlveda
Snake My Charms is the stunning full-length debut of Swedish five-piece postcore outfit No Hawaii, and simply put, it is a monster album in many ways.
First, I've read that No Hawaii cites Neurosis, Tool and The Mars Volta among their primary influences. Upon repeated listening to this album - which is very easy to do because it's compelling on so many levels - I agree that all of these influences can be heard. The primary influence from Neurosis would seem to be the excellent command of musical dynamics. Throughout the album's nine tracks, the listener is taken on a complete tour de force of both volume and pace - the proceedings are slow and melodic at one moment, and heavy, fast and thunderingly loud the next. The Tool influence is perhaps even more obvious - these artists show from the very outset that they are truly a group of master musicians whose talent is limited only by their collective imaginations. Speaking of imagination, this is perhaps where the influence from The Mars Volta is most apparent. The song structure and overall sound of this group's work prove definitively that No Hawaii indeed have a unique voice which is truly all their own. Even though this is their debut album, the quintet sound as if they have been making music like this for a very long time, and their sound is quite self-assured and confident - as well it should be.
In addition to doing their various influences heaps of justice, No Hawaii takes their impressive demonstration of skills even further. For example, considering the extreme dynamic range of this album, one might expect that there would be at least some examples of rough or harsh transitions, but there are none to be found. Much like the great bands which are renowned for their flawless transitions (Isis comes to mind), this band moves effortlessly from one extreme to the other - often multiple times within a single track - without ever jarring the listener's ears or concentration. A terrific example of this is the incredibly rich and expansive track Tunnel, which starts off as a trippy, groovy ballad of sorts (after an intense forty-five second intro, that is) - then progresses into some crashing heaviness followed by a melodic metalcore-ish phase, only to visit a chorus of hefty screams and pounding drums on several occasions, ending with a sprawling crescendo that would make Neurosis proud.
On the topic of extreme range, another aspect of this album which is truly impressive is the deft vocal transitions which abound throughout. Frontman Biggus is an accomplished growler with a naturally deep timbre to his voice when he wants to be - exhibiting a bark reminiscent of Meshuggah's Jens Kidman in the opening moments of the monstrous track Isaul, and then progressing through the gamut of clean singing, melodic shouting (similar to the vocal stylings often exhibited by bands such as Mastodon), to vocals consisting of only a strained whisper.
Speaking of fellow Swedes Meshuggah, yet another facet of this band's music which is both compelling and technically stunning is the vast array of odd time signatures used. Now, in many cases, bands which utilize meters such as 3/4, 5/4, 7/8 and the like can have a tendency to make music which sounds a bit choppy at times (even Meshuggah themselves can be accused of this, although in their case it is probably more intentional than not). However, instead of falling into this trap, No Hawaii instead exhibit the musical adeptness of yet another group of fellow Swedes - the now-defunct Burst - in making all of the odd time signatures sound as smooth as silk. As an example, the amazingly catchy track Unleash The Kuru carries a steady 5/8 beat throughout, but with a splashy cymbal sound and a jazzed-out rhythm that would sound completely at home on a Mars Volta (or even Miles Davis!) album, this skilled band brings the listener close the finish line of the album in a musical chariot which is fueled by pure soul.
One more track which is impossible not to mention with praise is the truly epic Radio Magellanes, which spans just over ten minutes and yet never becomes boring in the least. The pace does slow down considerably at around two minutes in, wherein a Spanish vocal sample plays in the background amongst some very Tool-esque guitar noodling, but at the end of this phase of the song, a peppy snare march swiftly picks the listener up and carries him/her through to the song's next transition, which is a pounding mid-section similar to something that Cult of Luna could very well have written. The roller coaster ride continues through varying terrain, and eventually comes to rest calmly at the station just over ten minutes from when it left.
In summary, this album is the musical equivalent of scoring the winning goal in a footballer's first professional match. It's THAT good. If this album is any indication of what lies ahead, then Sweden's No Hawaii have a truly bright future indeed.
Highly recommended for fans of bands ranging from The Ocean and Burst, to The Mars Volta or Mastodon, to Mr. Bungle (or nearly any project involving Mike Patton). Confused? No worries - get this album and see what all the fuss is about.
“ self-assured and confident ”
Tracklist: A Lovely Breed / Chuck Noir / Tunnel / / Isaul / Radio Magnellanes / Technical Difficulties / Unleash The Kuru / E=mc2 (Kaospilot)
Photo(s): Orhan Demir
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