NO METAL IN THIS BATTLE - Paprika
Iíve said it already a lot of times, and I will say it again: Luxembourg is a safe haven for instrumental rock bands. Spearheaded by Mutiny On The Bounty, the movement counts countless other bands: Heartbeat Parade, Yegussa, Tvesla, Cassťe,... and of course No Metal In This Battle. I have to confess that I never really paid close attention to the latter. On their first EP The Husky Tape in 2012, they still played a pretty standard variety of post/math rock. On the following Ours EP from 2015, the band started to incorporate afrobeat elements, but it was clear that they hadnít exactly found their path yet. And now they are back with their first longplayer Paprika, released on vinyl and digitally. I believe that this album will finally convert the last doubting Thomas.
First of all, Paprika sounds so much better than the two preceding EPs. It always pays off to spend a little more budget on recording sessions, as the eight tracks here show. Secondly, the songwriting has matured considerably, showing that these four veterans of the Luxembourgish music scene finally have found the line-up they needed.
The album begins with On15, an upbeat track that shows instantly what the new No Metal In This Battle are about. There is polyrhythmic drumming, a groovy bass line, electric guitar full of echoing effects and a warm, psychedelic electric piano. Apart from the Caribbean beats, I especially love it that the keyboards have taken a more prominent role throughout the album. Apart from the fact that it is played with some skill and variety, it also helps to distinguish the quartet from many other instrumental bands that rely too heavily on guitar, bass and drums only.
Up next comes Black Lips, which plays with Blaxploitation stereotypes in a really tongue-in-cheek manner. The electric piano and the disco guitar licks really take you back to the Seventies. Assfro is a short and entertaining track that once again highlights the bandís special hybrid of post rock with afrobeat. The first half of the album concludes with the seven-minute title track, on which the band is pulling all the registers. So much to discover here, itís pure bliss.
The albumís second half is maybe not as sublime as its first one, but I want to point out the nine-minute closer Melody Nelson Mandela, which combines the smarmy kitsch of Sixties pop (the Melody Nelson part) with No Metalís African side (the Nelson Mandela part). This track surprises with its long and positively self-indulgent guitar solo at the end. I would not have expected this from this band.
Seeing their influences rather in the true afrobeat sound of Fela Kuti instead of its later imitators (like for instance Vampire Weekend), No Metal In This Battle have managed to come up with an incredibly charming retro rock album that shoots them to the very top of Luxembourgish instrumental music. They remind me at times of Luxembourgish surf rockers Surf Me Up Scotty, although No Metal In This Battle sound less serious and more progressive. Itís really good to hear that instrumental music can still add new elements to an otherwise often rather stale genre.