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Ankh - Ankh CD (album) cover

ANKH

Ankh

 

Heavy Prog

3.52 | 16 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Eastern European nations have been some of the most adventurous when it comes to cross-pollinating different styles of music that normally aren't associated together especially in the realms of the world of punk rock. Once such band is ANKH that was formed in 1991 in Kielce, Poland by Piotr Krzemiński (guitar, vocals), Michał Jelonek (violin, keyboards), Jacek Gabryszek (drums, percussion), and Krzysztof Szmidt (bass) and as a band still is releasing albums well into the 21st century.

The band's first self-titled album emerged in 1994 and featured an eclectic mix of punk rock mixed with classical music and Slavic folk made all the more dynamic by the virtuosic violin playing of Michał Jelonek who also has played with the bands Hunter, Orchestra Dni Naszynch and many others. The band take things even further and crafts the compositions into heavily experimental and progressive realms that pretty much sounds like no other that i've heard anyways. Imagine if the pronk (prog + punk) elements of the Cardiacs were hybridized with the heavy prog of early High Tide along with a bit of King Crimson.

Add to that healthy doses of Slavic folk melodies that meander from Paganini styled violin workouts to good old fashioned Balkan gypsy folk sounds and you have a really interesting confluences of disparate sounds. Basically the rhythm section of guitar, bass and drums all operate in punk rock modus operandi although much of the time the energetic fury is bombastic enough to be considered metal. The clear star of the show here is Jelonek and his amazingly precise violin counterpoints which more often than not add an extra dimension of rhythmic bombast but also when let off its leash generate extremely technically demanding solos.

This interesting mix of ideas was present on the band's first three albums before tamping down the violin aspects and focusing more on electronic accompaniments. This debut contains 12 tracks that are just shy of 52 minutes with the average playing time around four minutes and although it offers a head banging punk and metal energetic performance unleashes the classical melodies and folk swing via the violin and viola. In many ways when the violin is syncopated to the rhythmic drive it reminds me of English band The Verve but more often than not the violin lives in its own independent world that when not fueled by classical influences reminds me a lot of High Tide's excellent debut "Sea Shanties."

This is a pretty cool album if you like the idea of progressive punk as all the tracks are catchy and provide both nice hooks and excellent musicianship. The lyrics are exclusively in the Polish language and the vocal style of Piotr Krzemiński sounds like the best of the underground 80s bands from the world of post-punk and industrial which gives the album a down to earth rawness that is mostly absent from the world of prog except in the cases of some of the more extreme forms of metal. If i have any complaint about ANKH's debut it's that the drums are fairly weak and although Jacek Gabryszek delivers the goods in a garage band sort of way i wish that there were a few more jazzy interludes here and there just to break the monotony of simple beat keeping although the focus is not on the percussion for sure.

Overall this is a really cool album that delivers a more progressive delivery of a genre that has become known as folk punk. While i wouldn't call this as inventive as bands like the Cardiacs or as pub oriented as bands like Flogging Molly or as stripped as bands like the Violent Femmes, ANKH delivers the goods in a highly aggressive punk infused take on the style that sits somewhere between folk punk, classical music and progressive rock but i guess i would say that the heavy punk aspects are what would probably define this if you had to pick a single genre. Probably could've been trimmed down a bit to the album length of a punk album as it gets to be a bit tedious after 30 minutes but still a really decent debut.

3.5 rounded up i guess

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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