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Haji's Kitchen - Twenty Twelve

Haji's Kitchen
Twenty Twelve
by YngwieViking at 21 January 2013, 3:06 PM

After the atypical SATAN JOKERS last week , this review is about another strongly divergent act called HAJI’S KITCHEN. Very distinctive both in it’s maverick music style but also in the very unusual and rocky convoluted career path, it's tricky trying to compare “Tewenty Twelve” to anything else out there at the moment, because it’s Proggy but too edgy and excessively deviant, in fact far from the common Prog-Metal scene. Yes , it’s kind of Alternative but it’s way too high-tech and skillful to be classified in the same category as ALICE IN CHAINS or A PERFECT CIRCLE and yes, it could have been called contemporary or modern but happily miles away, from the young overcrowded Screamo / Nu-Metal style.

This mutant tribe was discovered in Texas in the early nineties by legendaryMike Varney and after released the first Scott Stine’s Solo (JOHN WEST) album where all HAJI’S KITCHEN members were more or less involved. Shrapnel Records also published another very marginal instrumental solo album by Derek Taylor “Dystrophy” or the related side-project CRIMENY “Peat” also in 1994, the 1st HAJI’S KITCHEN album was released in the same move and was quite underrated back then. The Shrapnel Records / Stine family collaboration keeps going with the mighty, Dark Neo-Classical ENIAC REQUIEM’s “Space Eternal Void” also featuring most HAJI’S guys, and still a favorite of your truly since 1998, very recommended 9 out of 10 stuff.

Of course with such elements in their sound and with their unorthodoxy as best selling point, the band never really reached any real kind of mainstream success, and their mention didn’t ring any bell even in the Metal sphere their name is still unknown. Only some Varney’s disciples, some guitar geeks completest like me or some Shreddin’ fans are interested by them. But this record could be the turning point of changing winds. In other words, maybe you're missing something here.

The last time I heard something new from the HAJI’S KITCHEN camp was in 2001, for the somehow disappointing “Sucker Punch”, a way too much Alternative or way too much down-tuned guitar record, that takes the best out of the shredding sequences and even if the Thrash influences were still present, it wasn’t the KITCHEN that I loved strongly with their Shrapnel’s self-titled debut.

They disbanded in 2004; they played for Michael Harris (CHASTAIN-HARRIS / THOUGHT CHAMBER / DARKOLOGY / ZANISTER / ARCH RIVAL / SURGEON) and numerous other projects. In 2010, the reformed KITCHEN consist of Eddie Head (ex-JAMES MURPHY) & Brett Stine (Scott brother) on lead guitars, Derek Blakley (guest with EUMERIA) on bass and Rob Stankiewicz (THOUGHT CHAMBER) on drums, with the incapacity to find a new vocalist, they decided to approach the TESSERACT singer Dan Tompkins (SKYHARBOR) It was a smart move indeed, as the extra layer of class provided by their new recruit from UK helps the band to break new grounds.

Now with “Twenty Twelve” not only they have equaled but possibly surpassed anything recorded before. Starting  with the hyper heavy “Nocturnus” ,that set the tone for the whole platter with a new “H”  recipe , luckily the Grungy influences has been left, and the band is now more Thrashy & groovy than ever with short incursion in Djent or Metalcore territories, but with a recurrent Dark Prog ambiance, something like EXHORDER meet TOOL…OK …Sorry about that. “Day After Day” is the less easy to catch song but it’s a grower, and it features some skilled Bass line / Tapping interventions. At the end of the day, it is one of the finest cuts.

“Notch” sounds like Devin Townsend in a Metalcore mood. A great performance by the expertized rhythmic section and a very Shawn Lane like short lead work. “Warrior” is also outstanding and very dexterous. I gave four stars to the chief for that hugely coherent feast. The last cut “Sidhartha” is a great instrumental with of course, super tight playing and amazing axe licks with a very Prog atmosphere and some unusual scales.

The album is quite short, clocking at only 35 minutes but the listening experience is impressive and adventurous, but once again the band is acting weirdly and then bam, there is the whole album. Yep, again the same but some uncanny renditions: instrumental versions.

I know that instrumental music isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but when the music is that rich and the talented players are so ambitious, it would be a crime to reject without trying. In fact, both side of the recording are highly enjoyable, each providing depth to the other. The track “Warrior” is truly impressive without vocals. Exactly as “Define The Lie” whichis even smarter and finally better in this version. Another clever & audacious Avant-garde CD to catch ASAP. Trust me.

4 Star Rating

1. Nocturnus
2. Io
3. Day After Day
4. Lost
5. Notch
6. Define The Lie
7. Warrior
8. Sidhartha
9. Nocturnus
10. Day After Day
11. Lost
12. Notch
13. Define The Lie
14. Warrior
Eddie Head- Lead Guitar
Brett Stine- Lead Guitar
Rob Stankiewicz- Drums
Derek Blakley- Bass
DanielTompkins– Lead Vocals
Record Label: Independent


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