Over the past year or so, a wide array of instrumental bands have come across the Lady Obscure desk, ranging from the predictable to the bizarre, and filling every nitch in between. The latest offering falls under the “holy shit can that guy play” category. Mahogany Head Grenade is said offering, and Dan Hyer is that guy. Don’t get me wrong now, he has some solid men in Mike Pritchett on Drums and James Falcon on Bass playing with him, and they most definitely are a core part of the music, but the guitar is the frontman here.
Hailing out of Texas, Mahogany Head Grenade was formed after each of the musicians had stints with a series of other bands, when Dan decided to place an ad on Craigslist looking for members. Mike responded, and eventually they were able to find just the right fit in James. For a more in depth look at the band themselves, look into the Lady’s Q&A with the band here. Now let’s get down to the good stuff, this kick ass music….
The album opens up with the title track, Return to the Point of Departure, with some ethereally proggy effects and a bit of voice samples. These do a nice job as an opener, but really don’t actually prepare one for the onslaught that follows. All three members hit it in high gear, and to be honest, they never really stop till the album ends. Pritchett and Falcon are a rock solid rhythm pair, and they lay an incredibly tight foundation for Hyer to do his work. As to Hyer himself, holy shit can he play. I can just imagine after a concert, his guitar must need physical therapy, and maybe a few acupuncture sessions to boot. But this isn’t all about the awesomeness of his playing, or a showcase for instrumental wankery, these songs are solid, well structured and executed. Each has its own flavor, its own emotional feel to it. The title track is a head rush, almost a state of panic. In the second track, Trouble for Trouble, there is a little more resolve to the tone. Something in the soul of the album is settling down, coming to terms, understanding. The middle section is particularly somber, and does a wonderful job of building in intensity back into the structured thunder that makes up the songs core.
The third offering from the album, Vinedresser, has a much more mellow feel to it as it opens, almost a smoky room type vibe, but over the course of the song, they manage to span many different styles in developing what is easily the most proggy offering on the album. Pritchett and Falcon take on a much more prominent role here than in some of the other songs. Falcon’s bass is really the lead for Hyer’s “vocals” to be laid upon, and Pritchett’s drums simulate a kind of double duty with carrying the majority of the rhythm load. It is a complex and wonderfully structured song all around. The next one, my personal favorite, is a beast, a full frontal attack. Etude War Machine starts with about twenty seconds of mechanical, robotic ambient noise. Then it takes out the beating stick and goes old school on the listener. Intense riffs, kick ass fills, deep pocket bass, there is nothing left to chance on this one. Mahogany Head Grenade want to make sure you know you got your ass rocked off here, plain and simple, a mission they more than succeeded in with me. It’s one of those relentless head banging songs that no matter what environment you are in, if you are a rocker at the core of your soul, you will be taken over. The head will start nodding in rhythm, the hands will slowly crawl into the horns, and before you know it, you will be embarrassing the family, this I can guarantee. The album closes with Venetian Bricks, which takes the rocking tone down an imperceptible bit, but in the end, will leave you hungry for more and more.
There is much to love about these guys, and so much room for them to really expand into something truly special. For a debut offering, Return to the Point of Departure reeks of talent and potential. There Facebook profile has their work listed as “Melting Faces Daily”, and this my friends, seems to be a more than apt description for this instrumental assault.