The Devil And His Footmen

Written by: AP on 07/01/2014 22:29:31

Writing solid stoner rock does not require all that much: an ear for groove, a fuzz pedal, vocals that sound like the result of decades of boozing and smoke, and lyrics that read like the recorded ramblings of someone on a drug ruse. But German duo Beehoover propose to reduce my generalisation to even barer essentials: a microphone, bass guitar and drum kit. With such a minimal setup in mind, it is impossible not to expect the worst from "The Devil and His Footmen", the image of an unfriendly maelstrom of pounding and rumble with little to latch onto immediately forming in my mind upon the disclosure of this fact. Fortunately, it isn't quite so testing.

This is perhaps not a surprise, as crafting acceptable songs with such a limited toolset comes with a prerequisite: you need to go the extra mile to ensure that less is, in fact, more. Bassist Ingmar Petersen thus uses his instrument much like a guitar, and aside from the punchier tone and lower yield, his riffs actually sound much like their guitar born equivalents. A less alert listener, or simply one not accustomed to the distinct sound of power chords strummed on a bass guitar, might even be fooled by Petersen's skill and invention on the opening track "Monolith"; no less so due to Claus-Peter Hamisch tending to thump his bass drum at the most bass-characteristic notes.

But the unorthodox gear choice is not the strangest aspect of the album; rather, it is the Mike Patton and Les Claypool-esque style of vocals employed by one or both of the gentlemen that constitute Beehoover's line-up, their voices deliberately betraying a kind of lunacy that rapidly becomes (or, for those familiar with the band's previous output - has already become) their signature. Without clear cut melodies to speak of, this and a refined intuition for infectious grooves form Beehoover's main arsenal, though unfortunately the inevitable lack of variety impressed upon their sound by the absene of additional instruments means that "The Devil and His Footmen" is quite the hit-and-miss affair.

Both "Egoknights and Firearks" and "Rooftop" have their moments, but it is in the slow, sweltering desolation of "Boy vs. Tree" that the album finds its outstanding highlight, reminding me above all of desert rock legends Kyuss and the contemporary incarnation of that band: Vista Chino. "Dear Mammoth" is another choice cut, bearing a certain resemblance to the quirkier picks from the Queens of the Stone Age catalogue, particularly in the free-flowing rhythm and off kelter singing of its first half. Bear in mind of course, that with these references I of course mean a stripped down interpretation of such bands.

The fact that Beehoover have existed since 2003 and released four albums (including the one explored here) and an EP in that time, without ever really establishing a name for themselves, suggests to me that the band represents the very definition of an acquired taste, and that they have no qualms about having only cult or underground status. They're certainly not my cup of tea - this despite my well documented love of the stoner genre; and while I have no trouble recognising its merits, there is no ignoring the fact that upon winding to an end, "The Devil and His Footmen" will swiftly dissolve from my cerebral cortex.


Download: Egoknights and Firearks, Boy vs. Tree, Dear Mammoth
For the fans of: Coogan's Bluff, Kyuss, Vista Chino
Listen: Facebook

Release date 27.09.2013
Exile on Mainstream

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