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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

October File

Holy Armour From the Jaws of God

Review by Mike Korn

There's a lot of great music out there, but very rarely do we hear anything with true passion in it anymore. Metal and rap are full of a lot of anger and disgust (sometimes real, sometimes not), but not much more. Many would say the days of passion in rock music are long gone. October File are here to prove the contrary.

These four Englishmen have fashioned a gripping statement of musical integrity that is full of a sincerity that reaches out and smacks you right in the face. Heavy enough to hold its own with the most metal of bands, October File's punk roots are apparent in their raw unvarnished delivery. Added to that is a kind of intelligence one finds in bands like Killing Joke, Ministry and even U2. It's a music based on simple riffs and rhythms that provide a hypnotic background for the angry vocal roars of Ben Hollyer. Pay close attention to those roars, because they're about a lot more than just killing people, beating them up and the usual chest-beating nonsense. They are cries of outrage about how consumerism is killing the planet, how war is murder for profit and how we turn a blind eye to it all. This isn't preaching...it's an act of defiance.

Holy Armour From the Jaws of God emerges as an album where every song has its own special identity and where those songs weave together to form an unforgettable whole. It stamps itself on the brain. That's the mark of a great record and a great band. You will experience both here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
A Munitions Crusade
"The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it" announces a voice. Then we're off to the races with a catchy, simple riff. Ben Hollyer's vocals are British to the core, bellowing and pleading with the listener. The subject here is the overwhelming power of weapons companies to control and ruin lives. Steve Beatty's bass is monstrously powerful, packing at least as much punch as Matt Lerwill's guitars. This tune is deceptive in its simplicity but gets under your skin effectively.
In My Magnificent Circus
Things become only more intense here, on the backbone of a growling thrash-like riff and more thunderous bass. The song is heavier and faster overall and at one point it gets faster and faster until it reaches a critical mass and then that original riff strikes again, more potent than before. This is one hell of a bruising, fiery cut. I'll also put in a good word for the breakneck precision drumming of John Watt, which never flags.
High Octane Climate Changer
This is one of the angriest, most furious songs I've ever heard. It just takes your head off with another one of those crunchy, basic riffs - absolutely devastating, as potent as the fiercest thrasher. "Keep cutting the forests down!" yells Hollyer. "We need more coffee tables and TVs...we are so desperately short of coffee tables!" That's just part of his diatribe. Two-thirds of the way through, the song abruptly drops in intensity to a quiet whisper, giving way to anguished lyrics like "I can hear the last whale sing a song that echoes through the ocean / One last unanswered plea for mercy in a s!@#-filled sea / Why,why,why?" Then the metal kicks back in as brutal as ever. What an amazing track this is!
Another Day
This cut has a great driving rhythm to it that's as addictive as hell. These guys have an uncanny knack for coming up with awesome hooks that sink deep. Check out the wonderful soaring chorus riff here. Although not as intense as "High Octane Climate Changer"(what could be?), it may be the most infectious of all the tracks on show here.
Hallowed Be Thy Army
A tribal drum beat kicks in and then a very cool "phased" guitar hook that constantly increases and decreases in pitch hits. This is another very angry sounding tune that's a bit more complex and even progressive than what we've heard before. I would say the Killing Joke comparison is most valid here, though October File do more than enough to establish their own identity. Hollyer's constant bellowing of "taste the blood, taste the blood" forms a kind of mantra, as does his repetition of "Amen.”
Friendly Fire
If any song here best illustrates October File's concept of "simplicity=devastation", this is it. It is just completely hypnotic as the literal two-chord riff repeats itself with droning regularity. With some songs, repetition equals boredom and monotony, but not here. The incensed vocals keep things interesting and the tune changes gears just when it needs to. This is neck and neck with "High Octane Climate Changer" as my favorite track - a real classic.
Blood and Sweat
A surging wall of guitars morphs into a quick, nervous sounding guitar theme. "The darkness hides your face / Your face can only improve" snarls Hollyer. This whole tune has a staccato, choppy feel full of urgency. There is a lot of bile in this one.
A Sun That Never Sets
This robotic cut reminds me of prime Prong with its rhythmic repetition. Hollyer's vocals notably change in tone here, becoming more plaintive. The simple repetition of small vocal phrases echoes the droning music. The vocals gradually become more angry and then some glimmering guitar fills and solos add interest. This is a cut that smolders instead of burns and it's just a wee bit too long for me.
Religion?
That ultra-heavy bass provides the foundation for this mid-paced, stomping tune that takes a bitter shot at organized religion. The vocals are back to pit bull intensity as the line "There is no religion but the truth" is hammered into your head. This is a musical and lyrical bulldozer, scraping away false pretense.
So Poor
Something about this suggests what U2 would sound like if they were a real heavy band. It's a more mournful melodic sound for October File, with sad guitars piling on a sorrowful melody. It's probably the least heavy track here but it still packs a wallop, especially on the chugging chorus riff. Hollyer's thin vocals remind me of Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell in his "robot" mode. As you might expect if you've made it this far, the song is a scathing condemnation of the gap between rich and poor, which is growing exponentially even as you read this. I'm not sure if I would have closed the album with this, but it does show some versatility for the band.
 
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