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Afroskull - To Obscurity and Beyond CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.35 | 10 ratings

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4 stars Afroskull describe themselves as 'drop dead funk' and it's a pretty good description.

On To Obscurity And Beyond the 9-year follow up to their first album, the band present a confident set of fairly heavy rock, even metal, hard funk and jazz. They are led by guitarist Joe Scatassa and supported by bass, drums, clavinet and the 'Horns of Doom,' along with Zappa-alumni Ronnie Cuber on bass clarinet and baritone saxophone. Afroskull create a pretty cool mix of New Orleans jazz and (at times) Sabbath-influenced hard rock. In fact, Scatassa's guitar is probably the element that holds the two genres together, switching from a clean funk sound to the thicker distortion when required.

The songs average around six minutes, allowing for solos from lead instruments like guitar, sax or trumpet, along with riffing and the funkier interplay of rhythm tracks. The fantastic surprise of the band, if you're new to Afroskull as I was some months ago, is how well they mesh rock (even groove metal at times) and horns. Occasionally reminiscent of Mr Bungle, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Black Sabbath or even a cleaner Gwar, it would be easy to keep listing 'sound-a-likes' but I don't really want to burden the review with too much of that. Suffice to say that they incorporate elements from a variety of sources, and do it well.

Instead, have a listen to the magnificent 'Zero-Hour,' 'Me and My TV' or 'Waste Management' (one of two vocal tracks) and see for yourself. And add closer 'Escape from Rome' to the list, which provides some of the more cinematic moments on the album. In fact, 'To Obscurity and Beyond' has a kind of fascinating 'hero-meets-supervillain' feel to some of the tracks. Its served very well by a big sound, coming in no small measure from the thick guitar tone and the warmth and punch of the horns. I half expect to see Godzilla come crashing through a wall.

Expect more rock than jazz on the record, and across the whole album there probably isn't enough compositional variety for a five-star rating, but it's certainly four stars if you're into rock. If you prefer jazz, however, and are adverse to distorted guitars and an almost aggressive horn section, then you'll probably be more comfortable with three stars - 'Good, but non-essential.'

dreadpirateroberts | 4/5 |


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