Steak, Corned Beef Colossus: Fighting Molten Giants

When last we left them, London-based stoner rockers Steak were fighting an evil slave baron named Lazarus. At least that was the setup from the four-piece’s 2012 debut EP, Disastronaught (review here), an engagingly heavy and righteously fuzzed first outing from the band, who made no bones about who they were or what they wanted to be musically, embracing the desert roots of Kyuss and the subsequent expansion of the style by European outfits like Dozer and Truckfighters. The latter act plays a pivotal role on the follow-up to Disastronaught as well, since the five-track, why-would-anyone-else-ever-try-to-top-this-title Corned Beef Colossus EP was recorded and mixed in Sweden by Truckfighters’ own Oskar Cedermalm and Niklas Källgren at their Studio Bombshelter in Örebro, and Källgren even donates some lead guitar to the opening cut, “Black Milk.” Steak toured with Truckfighters last year in support of the first EP, so that their stamp would show up isn’t necessarily a surprise, but what’s most encouraging about the self-released Corned Beef Colossus – aside from that title, which wins whatever contest you want to put it in – is how much Steak emerges sounding like themselves, playing off influences rather than playing to them. The new collection also picks up the comic book-style narrative of the prior release, which, in keeping consistent with the last review, I present here in its full text:

As the darkness deepens in Cyclone City, its oppressed people languish under the control of the evil Lazarus.

A fight back is taking place led by the band of brothers known as Steak. The unlikely heroes are heading up an underground resistance to take on the might of Lazarus and his army of Doom Riders and are proving to be a thorn in the side of this repressive machine.

Back in his lair, the evil Lazarus and his villainous Professor Griz have been using the flesh of human slaves to create his sickest killer yet, The Corned Beef Colossus. Finding Steak in one of their favoured illegal drinking dens, the Colossus unleashes his might in an epic battle.

Have Steak met their meaty match? Will Large pull through and is this four armed stranger here to stay?

The story continues…

The line “Will Large pull through,” would seem to be a reference to now-former drummer Dan Kinsey, who’s been replaced by newcomer Sammy, who seems to be unrepresented in the artwork. Nonetheless, Sammy joins the returning lineup of vocalist Kippa, guitarist Reece Tee (also of DesertScene and the Desertfest) and bassist Cam, all three showing a clear development sonically from where they were a year ago. Bolstered by the richness of its production, Corned Beef Colossus excellently balances tonal weight and motion of groove, and where Disastronaught was a strong opening statement, the tracks “Black Milk, “Liquid Gold,” “Glanshammar,” “Whiskey Mule” and “Acid Dave” affirm the band as finding their own niche within the current, crowded sphere of British heavy rock and emerging as one of their scene’s most satisfying acts.

So yes, “The story continues,” but it also keeps in some degree to the same parameters as last time out. While Steak have unquestionably grown within their sound, they haven’t made an attempt to fix what wasn’t broken from last time out, and as a companion piece to Disastronaught, Corned Beef Colossus maintains the straightforward structural sensibility of its predecessor. The cuts here also continue a lot of the charm present in the material last time out, songs working efficiently to maximize their impact over the course of the EP’s relatively-quick 26 minutes. “Black Milk” and “Liquid Gold” make a particularly effective opening duo, each with a distinct mood and feel, but a consistent strength in its hook – Kippa’s vocals reinforcing the rhythms set forth by the guitar but beginning to show some melodic breadth of their own, especially on “Liquid Gold” – while the guest lead from Källgren adds further distinction to the leadoff on “Black Milk.” His tone should be readily recognizable for anyone who heard Truckfighters’ last outing, 2009’s Mania, but he sits in well alongside Reece and Cam in the second half of the song, rejoined by the vocals for a final chorus toward the conclusion. Though it’s working in a mood if its own, somewhat darker, with the vocals further back in the mix, “Liquid Gold” is perhaps the most tonally satisfying track on Corned Beef Colossus, proffering a near-overdose of bass from Cam as an undercurrent of low end for the drums to slice through en route to punctuating and, eventually, driving, the groove in the chorus. Reece seems to be taking cues from Källgren in the final minute’s solo, but it works well in the fade-out ending, which leads to the Kyuss-derived centerpiece “Glanshammar,” also the shortest cut here at 3:26 where everything else hovers between five minutes and the 6:34 of “Liquid Gold.”

As “Black Milk” bled right into that track, so does “Glanshammar” give way directly to the crashing hit that begins “Whiskey Mule,” which shifts back from the throttling course of the cut before it to revive the mid-paced methodology of opening duo. Reece takes an earlier solo, turning the structure on its head a bit, but the peak of the track is the open, bass-driven midsection, which provides a wonderful setup to a return to the rolling groove of the verse, Kippa’s shouts echoing from under the riff in just the right balance. Likewise, there’s no break between “Whiskey Mule” and “Acid Dave,” which closes out, Cam providing a bit of a transition on bass  to be soon joined by Reece’s guitar and Sammy’s drums. There’s not actually much change in the actual tempo, but “Acid Dave” has a more languid feel and seems to unfold at a more patient clip. At 2:13, the band breaks into an instrumental build propelled by the kick drum and an insistent nod that would seem to come out of nowhere, but can’t help but fit where it’s placed. Kippa does well to let the music establish itself before coming in on vocals, and they spent most of the rest of the song exploring the progression, finding room for a chorus/lead interplay en route to finishing out Corned Beef Colossus with a descent into rumbling feedback and finally a bit of churning noise. Marked out on its cover as “Steak Comics Issue #2,” I’d be tempted to call Corned Beef Colossus a full-length if Steak themselves hadn’t deemed it an EP, since it flows so well song-to-song and crafts a well-honed musical arc to go with what’s apparently an ongoing narrative. Whether or not the band will continue to put out EPs in this fashion until the end of this storyline or perhaps find out how the plot might thicken over the course of a debut full-length, I don’t know. These are concerns for another day. What matters most is that in addition to boldly living up to one of the best titles I’ve ever heard – say it out loud; it just rolls off the tongue – Steak have shown they’re able to bring an edge of their own to the well-trod path of stoner rock, and that their take is vital, energetic and only becoming more individualized. If you heard the first EP, Corned Beef Colossus is a grand complement to it, but even if you missed it, the second outing seems a fitting occasion to pick up the arc without having any trouble getting caught up.

Steak on Bandcamp

Steak on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply