Rest of the world, meet Adelaide band SE BON KI RA. Band, meet metal heads the world over. So the name? Well it appears that it’s the Haitian proverb for ‘the good is rare” and that becomes apparent when you see this band or read their lyrics. It’s all about the positives of life. In fact, let me plagiarise from the back of their debut album which reads, “this album is metal, but these are not songs about death and dying. These songs are about living. Songs that express struggle, the joy, the fear, the bliss…” What we have here are five guys with standard 9 to 5 jobs that live to make music, write, and record… then go out on the weekend, perform, and share their music.
One other positive about this album is that the government identified that these guys were onto something special and gave them a grant. Hear that metal heads, your state taxes going towards making music that you actually like. There’s an opportunity here for a new political party where every member gets studio time and a three album deal! I digress.
So SE BON KI RA debut with “In The Wake Of Change” and it’s a brute of an album. Every element, the mix, the art, the booklet, has been poured over and is perfect. Although recorded in Australia, the mix was done in the UK by Chris Atkins of Grindstone Studios and it’s a top notch effort, fitting 15 high quality songs onto this album. So I’ve got the advantage here as I’ve seen the band perform a few of these live. I took their CD to the car after the gig and played it until the battery went flat and I had to organise a tow at 3am. No joke, my problem, but it’s also your benefit as I can point you toward the gems on an album that has few flaws.
The opening track ‘This Life I Create’ is this band in a nutshell. It’s intense, tight and passionate. ‘Sick of blaming my lack of power on external forces that render me nothing’, spits vocalist Chad Cosgrove but every word is clear and desperate. This is melodic metal, played at speed with a groove running through it. What an opening with a band that clearly lives to play and perform. Twin guitar, with an almost DragonForce pitch. But there is nothing cheesy here, just intensity and drive.
A few tracks in we follow the SE BON KI RA mantra and get ‘All I Can Be’. This is like a hadron collider of Rage Against and the Lamb Of God. ‘Time has come to get your shit together’ screamed at us through the megaphone, punctuated by kick drum artillery and reflective guitar. This is a notch above what I am expecting and experience beyond a normal debut. Skipping on to ‘Symmetry’ there is a late 90s feel to this one. Is this angst driven American-inspired response to grunge? No way, the band is back in its groove with tight riffs filled with breakaways on the guitar. Light and dark in the vocals but the intensity does not lift. The power drill riffs are a hark back to ‘Kill Em’ All’ but with a proper drummer driving the band on. The lyrics in this will drive you forward if you are in a hole, trying to get out. Even if you can’t follow the lyrics, follow the groove. At this stage I’m thinking that it’s a problem that this album only has 15 songs.
Moving onto track 9 we see the first sign that this band may have a prog edge. This is a beautiful piece of production. A multi layered thrill ride of a song, ‘Nailed Into Place’ is both reassuring and disturbing. Telling the story of feeling trapped where, ‘one more hit is all that it’ll take to feel like my life is nailed into place’. An honest piece of writing about being trapped into a life that isn’t wanted is all under written with the same drive that is present through this entire album. There is no compromise and no corners cut. The playing is tight and just as you think its sounding familiar it changes and we are on another journey.
‘Caught In The Crossfire’ takes us towards the end of the album, but there is no slacking off and no fillers. This is angry and aggressive but has a ball-tearing groove swaggering through the middle of it. This high intensity duel of guitars is well done and mixed to perfection. I’ve heard a number of recordings where the bass or drums are lost between guitars but the investment in production shines through on this album and in this track in particular.
So to the last track on this album, and at just over 8 minutes ‘Breathe The Light’ is the longest track. It’s also my pick of the bunch as its 6 minutes of the groove that has punched through this entire album and 2 minutes of prog overtones. The fade out of the wind blowing to silence ties us back to the same opening on the first track. This is a beauty of a song and could happily close any show or, as this band continues playing gigs, would be a fitting encore.
I enjoyed this album the first time I heard it and I am glad to say that it is even more intense and thicker in sound when played live. I have listened to it many times now and its gets better on each listen. I have no doubt that I will hear something new on every listen. I’m not known for throwing around recommendations to follow up on a band but this is a MUST listen. When a band puts in this much effort then it has to be rewarded. So get the album and if you have the opportunity then see SE BON KI RA do it live, you’ll have no regrets. After all that’s what this album is all about.
Review Craig Grant]]>