KONG Earmined (Roadrunner)

Staking a claim to be the second best band out of Holland (after dEUS, obviously), "Earmined" is the fourth album by Kong, a quartet comprising Dirk de Vries (guitar and samples), Marieke Verdonk (guitar), Rob Snijders (drums) and Mark Drillich (bass). The press release declines to comment on the musical and commercial success or otherwise of their previous three long players, but phrases like "Kong’s world has changed" and "they have never sounded better" suggest that "Earmined" should be regarded as a new phase in the band’s career.

If I hadn’t heard Trans Am’s astonishing "Surrender To The Night" album I would probably herald "Earmined" as a brave and experimental work. Each of the eleven instrumentals on offer, most clocking in at six or seven minutes apiece, blend some fairly serious HM axework (Metallica springs to mind, but it usually does when I hear anything this heavy), with twisty-turny echt-prog tunery (the press release suggests King Crimson, which I wouldn’t argue with) and enough in the way of burbly acid lines and beakbeats to keep the result sounding fairly fresh and inventive.

Here’s the but. I have heard, and raved about at length a few issues ago, Trans Am’s astonishing "Surrender To The Night" album, which attempts to execute the same task as "Earmined", namely to bridge the cavernous gulf between heavy metal and techno. "Surrender To The Night" works because the chief element in its armoury is surprise; a compact dissertation on the subject of stadium AOR gives way to Aphex Twin-y balmy techno, which in turn becomes a mad breakbeat tune or a few minutes of white noise. You really don’t know what to expect next. What sinks Kong’s latest, for me, is that they play all their tricks on the first track, and once you’ve got used to the concept of heavy rock instrumentals with samples (which, to be honest, don’t take long), you’ve then got another hour of same to get through. So, A for effort but a B- for timing. If only they’d released it six months earlier...