The Angry Host: “The Angry Host” DLP

The band that never was and should have been much more. Well, truth be told, they emerged out of the blue as 20 Buck Spin playing a cocktail of cover songs by The Obsessed, Groundhogs and Necromandus when they opened for Reverend Bizarre at Auntie Annie’s in Belfast ten years ago. According to the original Distortion Project flyer, they must have stepped in to replace Bad Boat at short notice so their appearance in itself was a surprise on the night, then when they played with convincing ’70s swagger my mind recalls a genuine excitement that a promising new band had hit the local circuit. Unfortunately, I never saw them again and have no recollection how or why I missed their evolution to The Angry Host because they played at least a couple of Belfast gigs during the following year. By the time I had re-established contact with their guitarist, the band was defunct with the unmastered debut album shelved and unlikely to be released…

Why should you care? And why did Freak Flag care enough to invest in an extravagant and very limited vinyl pressing? Simply put, this is no cardboard cut-out stoner rock nonsense. No, this quartet had calibre. They understood vintage hard rock, cherished it and incorporated contemporary colour into their craft. A decade on, there is no sense of the songs being dated. In fact, they have aged remarkably well because there is a classic sensibility to the compositions. They could be old. They could be brand new. Not that it matters because only the quality counts.

With nine songs clocking in at almost an hour, the album could either be a little daunting or become tiresome quickly. Having spent months listening to the finished article years after first hearing an incomplete edition it is still safe to say that neither predicament is the case. If anything, it has taken that broad window to absorb the view meaningfully. Whether long or short, each song has plenty of twists and turns in pace, tone or flavour. On initial inspection, what may stand out are the huge riffs, fuzzy with heavy groove, the tight rhythm section and great bloody vocals. “Sulphurdeine” and “Out To Lunch” must have been the big live songs with Chris’ powerful voice at the fore and particularly the infectious cursing chorus of the latter. When hard pressed not to join in there is no doubt it could have been an anthem in the making.

But for me, it’s the diversity in the song writing and the deft touch on lead guitar that are truly incredible on top of that already rock solid foundation and witty dark lyrics. Thus, I’m drawn to the subtle and understated flurries throughout. The guitar shift in “The Creak Before The Crack” was the first sparkle of genius followed by the stellar lead work towards its close. “For Certain Because” opens with another classy slow lead before the primary melody kicks in. Then the creepy interlude with eerie solo, not unlike a laid back Dave Chandler, as well as the muscular finale thereafter makes what was a cracking song better again.

“Typhoid and Swans” or “Tiredness” could be the top pick. But it’s a tough call with both being epics in quite different ways. The former is melancholic through and through. The guitar melodies sublime. Chris’ heartfelt vocal performance really caps it off. Then the rhythm section leaps and locks in with a head banging groove before that sweeping melancholia settles in again for the duration.

What links it with “Tiredness” is the sense of dynamics and tone. A gentle lead ushers in a big swinging groove and some wonderfully understated vocals. The movement has a bluesy feel and the drums roll on. After building and building, the underlying tension finally gives way to a heavy collapse, lead breaks, vocal refrain, another guitar shift and solo. Stunning.

If craving a helping of misery, “Black Liquor” is slow, bitter and vocal-led. The chorus drags a little although I cannot wholly dismiss it because of the doom riffs, cool bass lines and the bubbling almost under water guitar effects.

Whilst “My Decree” is another upbeat reliable rocker, the Lovecraft-inspired “Arthur Jermyn” deserves special mention for its execution echoing the jungle of said strange tale with unusually phased vocals, mysterious melodies and that wonderful instrumental detour. Genuinely, it was an unexpected end to a creative record.

There you have it. A posthumous debut album that doubles up as an anthology and on that basis the length works. More’s the pity it did not happen in real time and this scarce pressing is essentially already gone before it leaves the plant. They had the gift and could have competed internationally. At the very least, they deserve to be remembered.

Written by four men the wrong side of 25 a good ten years ago, I’m not sure if you need to be as old and jaded to enjoy it. But it may help! How about a farewell gig upstairs in McKenna’s for us miserable gits?

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