November 13 2015 (Howling Owl Records)
Words: Linn Branson
They say the best things are worth waiting for, and in the case of this debut album from Bristol band The Naturals, it couldn't be more apt, or more lengthy a wait. It's taken a decade and a variety of limited edition releases before they have seen fit to debut this, their first full-length work. And when you hear what they have brought to the (turn-)table on 'Hive', you wonder how they have managed to stay under the radar for so long.
The eight-track work, produced by Dominic Mitchison and Sebastian Gainsborough, manages to cross so many genres it's hard to label it. Clad in a severe and remorseless post-rock experimental sonicality of electronic beats and distorted guitar riffs, are electro and prog elements, psych drones and warped vocals (used almost as an instrument as lyrics are indistinct - and mostly indecipherable - for almost all of the record's 44 minutes), 'Hive' constitutes one teeming mass of sound.
Opener '2HGS‘ is perhaps one of the most accessible tracks, beginning on an eerie howled vocal atmospheric thst splits off before its second minute into an industrial uproar before a meaty, propulsive beat comes in to carry it along with drone and experimental effects. It's an impressively conjured number to lead off. 'Infinite Eyeball', which follows in its wake, gurgles splayed vocal effects and reverbed guitar hooks, while a droning bass chimes with electronic feedback.
Elements of ambient noise and twisted psychedelic-like trancey guitars fill out 'Axe', working them into a bleak mechanical framework; while 'Cold People', which marks the midway point, is six-minutes-plus of thumping rhythms and blistering sonic assaults of percussive synth juxtaposed against distorted vocals bleeding through to cement themselves firmly in your head. 'Cauldron', however, the album's longest piece at approaching nine minutes, is maybe a tad indulgent though its having a foot in the 80s big arena tock camp may account for that. It doesn't work as well as some of the other tracks in its math-like workings suffused with the odd jazz-influenced notes here and there.
While 'Hive' may not necessarily be to everyone's taste with its heavy leanings towards the metallic, experimental and industrial side, but there's no getting away from The Naturals having delivered something quite powerful, distinct and challenging.