Vágtázó Halottkémek – Bite the Stars!

krypt-034 LPWell, this is… something very strange in the best way possible. Vágtázó Halottkémek (Galloping Coroners in English, and referred to as VHK from this point on) is a Hungarian band that has been active since 1975 and putting out records since 1981. They describe their music as “shamanic punk” and “magical folk”. Their vocalist is an astrophysicist who writes academic papers with titles like Biological Version of the Action Principle: The Next Frontier of Physics Endpoint Determination through Transcending the Quantum Level of the Action Principle: The Ultimate Physical Roots of Consciousness. This all sounds made up. It isn’t. Bite the Stars! (or Veled haraptat csillagot! in their native Hungarian) is their 8th album to date, and one of the most interesting albums I’ve heard this year.

Obscure trivia aside, the term shamanic punk is actually a rather appropriate, though not all-inclusive, descriptor for what this odd album actually sounds like. With a little help from the psychedelic and cosmic visions of the cover art, you can probably get a fairly decent idea for what atmosphere and style VHK is bringing forth: something like a late 70s to early 80s punk band who spent a little too long in the basement with their Hawkwind records. More importantly though, this is a punk band from the former eastern bloc, with what appears to be a more than gimmicky interest in the religious heritage and practices of their pre-christian past.

The trance starts with “Handshake”; a song that strides the edge of the dazed drone of repetitive clean guitar scrapings and ritualistic drumming, and the manic ecstasy of the shaman’s chants, yells, howls, and bellows. It’s highly atmospheric stuff, but if the thought of gallivanting wildly through the nebulous spirit realm for a few eternities doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time(lessness), then you’ll be relieved to know that in “Falling Into Love” you’ll find your feet more firmly attached to the ground. It opens with a more physical, thumping punk riff. This particular ritual jams on with more traditional (at least, for rock music) vocals, before exploding into a frenzied conclusion; pounding drums, vocals that wail and soar like eagles, and the riff transformed into a frantic apparition of its former self. VHK also allows space for less spaced out expressions of energy in the shorter and faster songs like “Celebration of Life” and “Hun Brotherhood.”

It would be easy for me to attempt to describe every song on this album for you, but it wouldn’t do this creative and energetic music any real justice. It’s truly something that you ought to hear for yourself. If I had any complaints to offer I would, but I don’t. The production is good, the songs compelling and varied, and the musicianship is fine. A lack of any bands for VHK to be directly compared to also ensures that this album doesn’t suffer from “someone else did it better already” syndrome. I know that the strange, psychedelic, shaman punk of Bite the Stars! is perhaps outside of the safe and familiar realm for many readers of this blog, but it’s worth giving a chance, especially if you are familiar with other bands around the metal and dark ambient scenes that incorporate “shamanic” elements into their music such as Syven or Wardruna. VHK offers another take on the incorporation of this cultural and religious heritage that we share, and I think it’s a very worthy approach they’ve taken. -Jake

Ektro Records

~ by martyworm on May 8, 2013.

One Response to “Vágtázó Halottkémek – Bite the Stars!”

  1. This is an insanely awesome discovery! What an incredible band. Thanks for presenting this one!

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