The songwriters behind this year’s greatest rock and metal album are likely to remain anonymous. The multi-instrumentalists behind Texas’ Low Flying Hawks who go by the initials EHA and AAL have remained relatively anonymous despite releasing one of 2016’s most praised albums. They’ve returned on Genkaku with some famous friends whose presence will likely help them continue their anonymity. The duo are joined by drummer Dale Crover of the Melvins and bassist Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle–that’s not to mention the guest vocals delivered by King Buzzo, also of the Melvins. Genkaku offers a combination of sweltering, tape melting, slow-motion riffage, shoegaze leads and reflective clean vocals made popular by doom metal’s current darlings Pallbearer. While both Pallbearer and doom metal’s other unwilling champions Thou claim to be more, or other, than metal and go out of their way to associate themselves with the earnestness of grunge–Low Flying Hawks deliver the kind of consistent songwriting and atmosphere that actually gives them more in common with the genre. While both Thou and Pallbearer made their bones on the storming, chugging riffage and Sabbath worship, Low Flying Hawks have more in common with desert rockers like Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age–they just deliver their songs at a snail’s pace. Album opener “Smile” shimmers and slopes forward like the anti-christ towards Bethlehem. “Don’t let me hurt you again/cause I’m only hurting myself,” the chorus goes delivered with all the ache of Kurt Cobain on In Utero. Album closer “Sinister Waves” opens with a “Something in the Way” vibe that is torn wide open by a chugging trance of a riff and a mantra that morphs from a sincere choirboy delivery to something menacing and sinister. Genkaku is an album designed to lure the listener in, make them comfortable and then disorient them–transporting them from a sense of safety, and familiarity to one of foreignness and disorientation. Genkaku is deceptive and brilliant.
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