Almost dead centre between Northern Ireland and England, surrounded by the cold waters of the Irish Sea, lies an island, an island with a mix of both Nordic and Celtic heritage, an island the locals know as "Manx", an island we from the outside know as the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man has never been much known for its musical exports, its only claim to musical fame being that all three of the Bee Gees were born there, but that might all be about to change with the emergence of a four piece Manx quartet going by the name Man in the Woods, Marc Vincent (bass/vocals, James Oxtoby (guitar), Dave Murray (guitar) and Christian Hardman (drums),who have just released their debut EP "Badlands: Part 1".
The addition of "Part 1" to this EP's title suggests to Desert Psychlist there is a distinct possibility of a future "Part 2" and that, readers, is the first piece of good news in a review brimming over with good news. Ok we are getting a little ahead of ourselves here so lets take a moment and examine why the prospect of another release from a band who have only just released their debut is such a mouth-watering prospect.
Shimmering guitar arpeggios picked over a backdrop of thrumming bass introduce first track "Icarus Landing" going slightly askew and dissonant as the song progresses then fading away briefly before reappearing, drums in tow, to explode into a huge sludgy desert groove overlaid with big throaty vocals. The songs aggressive, full on attack, tempered by Oxtoby and Murray's deft guitar work and driven by Vincent and Hardman's bass and drums, has a dynamic somewhere between heavy desert rock and swampy sludge and sits probably closer to the latter mainly due to Vincent's big throaty vocals, the bassist/vocalist sounding on occasions like a pissed off bear with a toothache. Next track "Speedeater" sees Man in the Woods initially jamming an up-tempo stoner/desert groove but as the song progresses this gradually makes way, mid section, for a dark doomic interlude that finds Hardman laying down an almost tribal beat over low, droning bass and guitars before the song returns full circle to it's desert root to take things to the close. "Toxicology" is up next and its cloth is cut a little slower and a little less in your face than its predecessor with Vincent telling us "I'm no good" over a low, but not slow, backdrop of grizzled bass and crashing percussion fractured with swirling dark guitar colouring, the song dropping down mid song into a short but totally effective lysergic groove before exploding back into life for the finale. Final song "Angel of Gasoline" goes straight for the throat, the song taking "Badlands: Part 1" to its close on waves of raucous circular riffage, hard edged rhythms and screaming guitar solos all topped off by Vincent's meaty,rasping vocal tones.
There is a bridge on the Isle of Man that is known as the "Fairy Bridge" and to cross this bridge without first greeting the fairies is said to bring bad luck. Well if this legend has any grain of truth in it then Man in the Woods must have, before going into the studio to record "Badlands: Part 1", not only said hello to these magical folk but also given them an almighty hearty hug.
Check it out ….
© 2018 Frazer Jones