habu cover

Artist: Habu

Album Title: Infinite

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 29 April 2016

It’s a rare thing for a decent band to come from my own personal neck of the woods. Aside from Cradle Of Filth, the pickings from Suffolk are pretty slim. But then, given our rural surroundings and relaxed pace of life, it’s hardly surprising. So, when whispers of a new band from Ipswich reached me, I had to investigate. Imagine my further delight upon discovering that they play progressive rock, one of my favourite styles of music.

The band in question goes by the name of Habu and they are a three-piece comprised of vocalist/guitarist Andy Clarke, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Alex Body and drummer Alex Dunbar who formed in 2012 and who cite a lot of the usual suspects as influences, from Rush to Pink Floyd and from Queen to Kansas, with many more in between.

‘Infinite’ is the trio’s second release, the follow-up to 2014’s debut ‘To The Stars’. You can certainly hear a lot of these influences at work too as Habu have not tried to re-invent the progressive rock wheel. Instead, on the strength of this record, they have managed to sensitively blend the sounds of the ‘classic’ era of prog rock with a fresh, vibrant and modern edge. The result is a very creditable album and one that should increase the band’s stock further.

To their credit, Habu have already experienced a modicum of success, having shared the stage with the likes of Uli John Roth and Arthur Brown. However, I’m certain that ‘Infinite’ points at a very healthy future ahead.

Over the course of the ten songs that make up ‘Infinite’, Habu never stand still and never let the grass grow under their feet. There is always something going on, something interesting to explore and something to hook you in. The really neat trick however, is the way in which the music never feels overly complicated or overly contrived. Yes, these guys can play and yes there are plenty of time changes, unusual segments and the occasional gratuitous solo. But these things never detract from the songs themselves. If a composition doesn’t need to be ten minutes long, it isn’t. Equally, as deft as each musician is, no-one takes centre stage thus leading the song down an inappropriate dead end. If a straight-forward riff or melody is what is called for, that’s what’s delivered. It’s this that, to me, demonstrates most clearly the overall maturity and songwriting nous of the band.

habu band

In addition, the analogue production helps to create a real band feel. In keeping with the influences from yesteryear that creep into the music, the production (undertaken by Danny B at HVR Studios in Suffolk) has a rich and honest organic feel to it. It sounds like the material may have been jammed out together in the recording studio, even if maybe this wasn’t entirely the case.

What’s more, this music makes me smile. It comes across as bright, breezy and full of life regardless of the lyrical content which isn’t always tackling the warmer and fuzzier things in life. It just feels to me as if Habu had fun writing and performing this material. This, in itself is refreshing.

It is difficult to single out particular tracks for specific mention because of the consistency demonstrated throughout and because by so doing, I feel like I’m doing a disservice to some equally deserving moments. That said, the opening track ‘Truth And Illusion’ is a cracking beginning to the album. Upbeat, with a huge chorus and some very slick musicianship, it leaves you in no doubt as to what ‘Infinite’ is all about. The bass work, as is the case throughout the entire album is hugely impressive, complementing the rhythms but also adding plenty of musicality at the same time.

Arguably my favourite track, ‘A Thing Called Evil’ is akin to the lovechild of Rush and Hawkwind but with a more modern edge. The song is truly epic-sounding thanks to an increase in spacey, almost psychedelic keyboards but they are used in exactly the right places and are not overdone. It also features another hook-laden chorus to counteract the technicality within the rest of the song, including an extended lead guitar solo towards the end.

I didn’t like ‘Dead Weight’ that much to start with but with repeated listens the chorus begins to make sense and this is now another favourite. The song demonstrates a more hard-rocking edge and has more than an echo of the 70s about it. The keyboards add drama and it’s one of the most dynamic and up-beat compositions on the record.

‘Heavy Chains’ opens with lashings of powerful synth sounds before developing into one of the more moody and atmospheric moments on the album, whilst ‘Eat The Sun!’ and ‘Isn’t This Where We Came In’ both showcase the instrumental prowess a little more through the medium of slightly shorter instrumentals. The latter in particular reminds me a little of early Genesis in terms of the initial lead guitar tone.

The album ultimately closes with the title track, the longest single composition on the album. It’s also one of the strongest and most daring in terms of the dynamics and complexity on display. It highlight’s Habu’s ability to push the envelope a little and allows more time and space to explore a myriad of different ideas within one composition.

‘Infinite’ is a strong album and for a sophomore album just four years into the band’s fledgling career, it demonstrates that the prog force is strong in these three guys. I therefore commend ‘Infinite’ and recommend it highly. Hopefully I’ll get to a local gig soon to witness the live show but whatever happens, I will keep an eager eye on Habu as I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmL5PJs9Euo&w=560&h=315]

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