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Album Review
Captain Sergeant Major

Captain Sergeant Major
by Captain Sergeant Major

Hell Is Now Love

Review Date
2nd February 2012
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

In this world of trend-hyped “next big things” it is almost refreshing to find a band who have been together for over a decade, refining and honing their sonic mastery, who have only just released their debut album. Long-time mainstays of the Wellington music scene Captain Sergeant Major have done just that with their new self-titled album. The music they have for us now is dark, evocative, tense, and expressive all at once. Simply put, Captain Sergeant Major are masters of their art and are both willing and capable of expressing it.

Under the torrents of lush, layered rock you can find nuggets of fragmented pop majesty. Angular riffs reign supreme on opening track ‘Push Comes To Shove’, they are stacked haphazardly on top of one another until they threaten to keel over entirely. A thick wah-accent comes over proceedings as singer Caleb McKenzine raps “If it comes to push comes to shove / if it comes to that / if I comes to push” getting increasingly more agitated. This is powerful guitar rock but every instrument plays its part well. ‘Assassin Bugs’ prominently features a bass guitar as it bounces hysterically around a knotted ska riff that takes on an amazing prog rock quality.

After the imposing first two songs the album turns to a few easier to digest tunes. Take Ya Picture is one of the shorter songs on offer (being at less than five minutes in length) but it is an exquisite slice of jazz-rock tempered – all reverb and dextrous bass work. Things turn to bludgeoning grunge on ‘Daily Horoscope’, but even that turns in an esoteric noise rock direction before too long. Where Captain Sergeant Major really excel are the blissful moments in their high-tension jam sessions, so much so that they tend to overshadow the more “song-like” aspects of the tracks. As evidence see closer ‘Pitch Salesman’. Every one of its 13 minutes is crammed with vivid imagery, wistful ethereal-isms, plaintive guitar squall, and classic rock vamps mutated beyond recognition. Don’t be fooled by the fake ending either, there is more to go after the eerie silence.

Across the album the serpentine tempos writhe and resist classification, sometimes sharp and empowered and diminished to a pure wallowing sludge at others. The rhythm section (Byron Sparrow and Matt Jeyes) deserves special praise for their tight grooves that anchor the band in reality just enough to really hit home. The fact that their contributions are right at the fore of the band’s sound in spite of the monstrous vocals and guitar work is high praise in itself. The track lengths are also of particular interest, with the entire 6 song set coming to a neat 40 minutes. The longer compositions allow the band to flesh out every musical idea into something formidable. No-one in New Zealand is quite like Captain Sergeant Major, they are true originals.


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