by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: June 7th, 2014
The last thing that occurs to you when first listening to ‘Abandon Earth‘ is that there is any coherent theme to this barely bridled mayhem. The album is an exhilarating but frightening rollercoaster ride through funk, heavy metal, gypsy, punk, prog rock, afro-beat and many other musical styles just too numerous to list. This is such high octane insanity that you’d never believe there was actually a method to the madness. But there is — this is actually a concept album, which relates the sci fi tale of a demented ice cream vendor who laces his wares with drugs and then takes his victims on a psychedelic trip to the centre of the earth. Whoa, hang on, that sounds … nuts. Maybe we should just say that there is madness to their madness.
Five Alarm Funk have been around for ten years now, and in that time they have evolved from a more traditional-sounding funk band into something heavier, darker and weird, something that is all their own. They make full use of everything at their disposal – drums, guitars, brass, sax and percussion — to gleefully whip their listeners into a frenzy. It is still a carnival, but where it was once a romp in the fun-house it is now a riot at the freak show.
The album opens to the chiming of an ice cream truck, which gives you a bit of a shiver because you know that it’s ominous, like the singing of a nursery rhyme at the beginning of a horror movie. Then there is a brief bit of vaguely Balkan-sounding guitar work before the flood-gates open and the band hits you with all that they’ve got — and this is a 9-piece band, so that’s quite a bit. When lead singer (and drummer), Tayo Branston, delivers the narrative he does so with a menacing growl that one normally associates with death metal, putting you on notice that this is no walk in the park. This is a dizzying, high-energy thrill ride, but it has a sinister edge.
Once the band unleashes their sonic barrage on “We All Scream” they never let up. ‘Abandon Earth‘ is impressively creative with its unique concoction of sounds, but it’s relentless and it’s intense. So intense, in fact, that when the band plays this material live they make sure to intersperse it with some of their older, less demanding songs.
However, for all of that, Five Alarm Funk’s music remains rhythmic, bouncy and infectious. The story they tell on this record may involve catastrophe, fear and destruction, but at the end of the day it is still a party.