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Oktopus

‘Worlds Apart’ release 1st April 2016.

Not often, are you led on a journey, so incautiously complex and chaotically structured, that it allows its destination to end so satisfyingly. It is comparably as rare to have found yourself spun around continually with such venom and yet not crave a foundation that is more stable and forgiving. Oktopus throws you around with all the might of an unapologetic eight-armed animal, yet leaves you intriguingly wanting to explore more. Never has a name epitomised their artists musicianship so aptly.

Oktopus

Oktopus not only throw you around with musical merriment, but an octopus, classified officially as a cephalopod, is an invertebrate, which means it has no back bone and this Birmingham trio, consisting of Alastair Bell on lead guitar, Samuel C. Roberts on Bass and Tim Wilson on drums, could also be considered Instrumental invertebrates as they have a sound that flows with flexibility . With an ensemble of progressive rock, electronic punk and jazzed up funk, they simply rip up the text book, with a freaky fluidity.

‘Worlds Apart’ is the artists first album release since the change of their name and lineup. The band used to go by the name Progoctopus and had released a debut EP ‘Transcendence’ before Alastair replaced previous vocalist, Jane Gillard, and they resultantly and cleverly in my opinion, decided upon shortening their title.

DISCORD (APPROACH) is an ominous opener. A short starter of a course, that as equally, many will find disconcerting to the palate, to as many that shall find it reassuring and calming. I’m not totally convinced that the band have any intention to instil an emotion, rather they set a mood and let the listener examine their own imagination. I see it somewhat as an invite into the unknown and an adventure into something as compelling as it is curious.

The first release off the album and the first full track, EYES OPEN, is a marauding monster of a song. It takes you and shakes you in to a state of comfortable confusion. The heavy mix of progressive rock, repetitive rifts, jazz styled bass and frenzied drumming should leave you slightly unbalanced. Oktopus however finds a cohesion in its chaos with arrangements that are completely complex in their composition. Alastair’s distinctive vocals shine through the abnormality and the new sound is set.

The title track WORLDS APART is very much of the same ilk and a sublime manifesto of jazz infused prog rock. It is littered with unashamedly unique and inspiring arrangements, all pulled in by the classy confides of Samuels contemporary bass. A special note has to go out to the spiralling guitar solo that see’s Alastair in the prime of his art.

After a completely manic and high energy start you’re beginning to question whether the powerful trio can keep up this level of unrelenting arousal throughout the entirety of the album. THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY TROUTMONTO (PART 1) soon reassures you that there is no chance of the three of them loosing any steam. More frenzied combinations of rhythmic raucousness is delivered. With no lyrical story telling, this three minute instrumental allows all three members off the leash to litter a busy track with all their hearts content and prove just how competent musicians they really are. A break from all the antics of absurdity is wilfully offered, however in the form of a short sound bite of musical valium. HARU provides a melodic midpoint mildness. A mix of mystical pipes that calms and restores a semblance of rest.

THE HAND ON YOUR SHOULDER, at least to begin with, continues this more gentler theme. It’s a more softer approach, with a more traditional jazz feel and tippy tappy guitar. The peace does not last long though and is broken by an all consuming chorus of impressive vocals which pull you back into the Bands true grit. There is reference to the strength of a soldier in this track, which got me thinking that if fate flung me into the front line, there could be no better soldier placed by your side than Tim Wilson whose drum sticks fire frenzied, machine like bullets, that rip through the air with feverish vigour. This man has astronomical talent and is simply a pleasure to listen to. As are the backing vocals, that adds a fine accompaniment to what is arguably the strongest song of the CD.

Never less, the final track of the album MINOTAUR is a rip roaring one. It leads you down a punchy and punky Alice in Wonderland type rabbit hole. It twists and turns and lends to the ears, some remarkably inventive mid sections. This is a potently powerful finish. The Rifts are raised, the drumming is as consistently explosive as ever and the bass holds less illusions of a ring master attempting to construct some control over a couple of rather ferocious lions.

Oktopus - 'Worlds Apart'

You may just feel like submerging yourself in the deepest and darkest deaths of the earths ocean after an introduction to these completely crazy individuals. However I suspect that if Oktopus find you, they will grab you and fling you on an exciting expedition which you won’t easily forget!

Track listing: 1.Discord (Approach) 2.Eyes Open 3.Worlds Apart 4.The Adventures of Jerry Troutmonto (part 1) 5.Haru 6.The Hand On Your Shoulder 7.Discord (Descent) 8.Minotaur

Review by Rod Grainger.

Hils Ovation

O2 Academy3 Birmingham 28th January 2017.

Oktopus with support from Netherhall, Brocken Spectre and Sonata Fall. It seems like January 2017 has been an exceptionally long month, so to say I’m just a little bit happy to be heading off to the first Hils Ovation gig of the year, is most definitely an understatement!

And what a little gem tonight’s gig looks set to be as it’s line up offers an intriguing mix of bands both known and previously unknown to me and that definitely warrants a big thumbs up in my book.

Getting tonight underway were Sonata Fall and it quickly became apparent that tonight’s set was to hold great meaning, with this being Simon Tranter’s last gig with the band. Ramped with a profusion of intense guitar licks combined with the rich vocals of Justin Reeves, tonight’s set hit gold for the band and albeit an emotive end to this particular chapter in their career, it delivered one hell of a great promise for the next one!

Simon Tranter - Sonata Fall

Our next set of the night was from the Hereford based band Brocken Spectre and hand on heart, these guys stand in a league of their own! For any band whose music is progressive and purely instrumental, there is a need for that music to completely set the scene and the aura of Brocken Spectre was nothing short of mesmerising! Individually, the level of ability possessed by Phil Rochard (Guitar), Jordan Payne (Drums) and Duncan Edwards (Bass) warrants the title of virtuoso and when collectively delivered in a setting such as this, the best description I can give is to say that this was one of the most awesome live master classes I’ve ever seen.

Duncan Edwards - Brocken Spectre

It has been way too long since I last saw the fantastic band Netherhall, and after watching their set tonight and reflecting back upon that last previous performance, as good as they had been then, their evident evolution over the past twelve months is nothing short of spectacular. The guitar work of Tom Bushell has always been charismatic in both its delivery and content and with Tom positioned pretty much centre stage tonight, I felt that this really brought to the forefront, the immense passion and intelligence that lies within Netherhall’s sound. Netherhall will be back in Birmingham again on the 19th Feb at The Hammer & The Anvil, so give yourself a treat and get yourself along there to see them.

Tom Bushell - Netherhall

Our headliners for tonight were the Birmingham based band Oktopus, who’ve been playing together since 2014 and comprise of Alistair Bell (Vocals/Guitar), Tim Wilson (Drums/Vocals) and Sam Roberts (Bass).

Sam Roberts - Oktopus

Given that I’ve not seen Oktopus play live before and had only heard snippets of their songs, I don’t think I was fully prepared for the experience of their set tonight – and what a truly amazing set it was! The style and progressive sound that Oktopus deliver is fresh, vibrant and through the sheer excellence of the bands ability, they breath the kind of life into their songs that you don’t tend to come across that often.

Alistair Bell - Oktopus

Highlight of their set for me, was the performance of ‘Worlds Apart’ which also happens to be the title of their debut album aswell.

Tonight’s gig certainly blew away those January cobwebs and left me heading for home, one very happy gal indeed!

Review and Photography by Sue Wardle.