REVIEW: GIRAFFE TONGUE ORCHESTRA – “Broken Lines”
A mere mention of the word ‘supergroup’ sets my pulse racing. However, bloated egos competing for creative control or flash-in-the-pan projects have largely made several promising supergroups disappear without leaving any lasting impact. Still, the unlimited possibilities resulting from the creative amalgamation of members from different bands make the formation of a supergroup a very interesting affair. Giraffe Tongue Orchestra is one such extremely interesting collaboration between Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan), William DuVall (Alice In Chains), Brent Hinds (Mastodon), Pete Griffin (Dethklok) and Thomas Pridgen (ex-The Mars Volta). Although founding members Weinman and Hinds launched the band back in 2012, it took them four years to finally come out with their debut album titled ‘Broken Lines’ scheduled to release on 23rd September via Party Smasher Inc./Cooking Vinyl.
The story behind the band’s quirky name was explained by Hinds in one of their interviews. He describes: “During the time Mastodon was [in Australia] for Soundwave, I was at the zoo in Sydney and was checking out the giraffes. They are amazing animals. One just grabbed a bunch of bananas from my hand with its tongue and peeled them with it as well. By the time the bananas got to its mouth, they were ready to be eaten. I saw Ben who was at Soundwave too and said, ‘Man, I think I found the name for our band,’ and told him the story.” Ben added: “That giraffe made it happen… like us, he figured it out.” Well, the quirkiness doesn’t just end with their name. Giraffe Tongue Orchestra is truly a bastard child of Mastodon and The Dillinger Escape Plan. It borrows the edginess of Mastodon and the Mathcore elements of The Dillinger Escape Plan, well apparent at different points on the album. However, like a newborn child, it also has its own character, a child-like excitement and carefree nature. The compositions on ‘Broken Lines’ are unrestricted and free-flowing, unbound by the members’ older bands.
While the album opener “Adapt Or Die” is a peppy, groovy hard-rock anthem, the follow up track “All We Have Is Now” is a soulful ballad. William DuVall is very impressive throughout the record tackling the edgy raw parts and belting out the softer, melodic clean vocal sections with equal ease. The first indication of the supergroup coming together sonically is evident on the third track of the album “Back To The Light”. This is when one can hear hints of the Mastodon-meets-Dillinger-Escape-Plan magic. Watch out for the solo as it will make you drop everything you are doing and suck you right into its vortex.
The band mixes the compositions really well on the album alternating between the simpler, groove-laden rock anthems with epic progressive compositions. For example, soon after “Back To The Light”, you are hit with the peppy “Blood Moon” before being propelled again towards the maze of the title track “Broken Lines”. Similarly, after being awestruck by the epicness of “Crucifixion”, the band hits you with the groovy disco/dance-rock beats of “Everyone Gets Everything They Want”. Such change in the direction on the album often left a smile on my face and also made me check whether I was indeed listening to the same album or not.
Things get a bit serious after “Everyone Gets Everything They Want” with the last three tracks trading away the simplistic and straightforward character in the compositions for a more technical and progressive contrast, yet firmly holding on the groove, thanks to the amazing Thomas Pridgen behind the kit. Pridgen’s performance is very impressive throughout the album and is instrumental in bringing the dynamics to the fore-front especially on the odd-time signature parts. I particularly loved his performance on the penultimate track of the album “No-One Is Innocent”. It is also one of my favourite on the album.
‘Broken Lines’ leans heavily towards the Progressive Rock spectrum and barely has any Heavy Metal character to it. Listeners who were expecting a Heavy Metal record especially with Hinds and Griffin in the band, may feel let down. However, if they keep an open mind, they may fall in love with this band. The production is top-notch, successfully capturing all the elements of the compositions, which is not an easy task considering the myriad textures it possesses. The album is precise with 10 songs in total extending a little over 40 minutes. True to the quirky band-name, the compositions are eccentric, fun and full of groove. The influences of the members’ older bands do not overpower the compositions, giving this supergroup a unique identity of their own which will only get strengthened further in the future, promising us exciting times ahead.