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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Steak Number Eight - Kosmokoma

Steak Number Eight is a four man post metal/sludge outfit from Wevelgem, a small town in southwest Belgium, close to the French border. Its somewhat curious name comes from one of the songs by the band Voidpoint, a nu-metal band also hailing from Wevelgem. Steak Number Eight’s founder Brent Venneste’s brother Thobias played drums with that band until his mysterious death in 2005 and as a homage to him, the then 13 year old Brent decided to start a band. He chose the first song on Voidpoint’s debut album to be his band’s name. behold Steak Number Eight.

‘Kosmokoma’ is not SNE’s first feat of arms, in fact it’s their fourth, starting with their 2008 debut EP ‘The candle dies out’, which was released shortly after they were the youngest winners ever of the Humo's Rock Rally, an important Belgian music contest. Their debut was applauded widely, and since then all they could reasonably have done is grow. Mind you, these guys were in their teens back then, so there was plenty of room to grow. And did they ever use that room. With every new release their progression was obvious, making clear these boys had and still have a great future ahead of them.

After releasing their debut SNE was immediately compared to heavyweights like ISIS, Tool, Amen Ra and Mastodon, but where that claim might have held true back in their ‘early days’, nowadays they deserve more credit in my opinion. The influence of those bands is unmistakable, but SNE most certainly found their own way of playing their music. Classically lined-up with a guitarist/vocalist (Brent Vanneste), another guitarist (Cis Deman), a bass player (Jesse Surmont) and a drummer (Joris Casier) SNE plays a catchy, ambient and sometimes aggressive type of post metal based music on ‘Kosmokoma’ that will remain present in your subconscious for a long time.

Opener ‘Return of the Kolomon’ is a somewhat progressive up-tempo song with a vocal twist in the final minute. Its music shifts back and forth between heavy and ambient, building up to multiple climaxes. A nice warming up. The variety in the heaviness of the music is matched by equally varied vocal lines in ‘Your soul deserves to die twice’, where Brent shows his impressive vocal reach. The same recipe applies to ‘Principal features of the cult’, but the heaviness gradually lessens and the ambient, melodic parts become more distinct and prominent.

This proves to be a definitive move, the rest of the album, consisting of eight more songs, only occasionally turns back to the heavy style used in the first two songs, like in ‘Charades’ and ‘Cheating the gallows’ for example. Brent doesn’t display his vocal range too often anymore either, instead he opts for clean vocals most of the time. Here too is the occasional exception, as the screams in, again, ‘Charades’ and ‘It might be the lights’ delicately point out. ‘Gravity giants’ and ‘Knows sees tells all’ are somewhat slower songs, with a prominent role for the great drum work by Joris, where ‘Charades’ and ‘Claw it on your eyes’ maintain a higher pace. The rest of the album is pretty much created from the same blueprint, alternating between slow(er), more melodic and fast(er), heavier rock songs ending with ‘Space punch’, which in fact has some spacy elements to it.

So to conclude ‘Kosmokoma’ may be a lot, but it definitely is not a very heavy album. Let it be clear, however, that this in no way discards this album. If you’re looking for heavy riffs, blast beats or screaming solos you’re on the wrong track here, but other than that ‘Kosmokoma’ has plenty to offer for many, and it is well worth a couple of spins. Young as they still are, SNE’s musicians are well on the way to master their instruments, if they have not already. On top of that, not exactly trivial either, they also know how to pour that skill into great compositions (written by Brent) which keep you entertained for every single one of the 67 minutes this album lasts. With this new release SNE shows they have matured nicely and that they are capable of making some great, entertaining music.

Written by Henric van Essen

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