I try to be as honest as I can be in writing about music at our putrid site, but in the case of the Canadian progressive/technical death metal band Bookakee, I need to be brutally honest: Knowing very little about their previous musical output before listening to the group’s new album, Ignominies, I was initially quite skeptical. Maybe “put off” would be even more accurate.
The band’s name, coupled with their outlandish full-body make-up, their reported use of gory props on stage, and the PR brandishing of the band as “Montreal’s answer to GWAR“, made me suspicious. Rightly or wrongly, I glumly surmised that the music wouldn’t be worth taking seriously — that no matter how much fun their live shows might be, this would be a band who relied more on gimmickry than song-writing or performance skill. (The fact that I’m not a huge GWAR fan undoubtedly played a role.)
Having listened to Ignomonies despite all my misgivings, I am here to confess, with some embarrassment but without reservation, that I couldn’t have been more wrong. And if you happen to be approaching the album with a similar judgmental skepticism, hear me out — and then by all means hear this album through the full stream we’re premiering today in advance of its release by Transcending Records on June 29th.
In a word, Ignominies is brilliant, so electrifying that it can pop your eyes wide open and take your breath away, and so full of surprises that it becomes a edge-of-your seat ride, part of the thrill derived from waiting to discover what will happen next.
Attempting to describe every facet and every twist and turn would be a fool’s errand, and would also be churlish, because dishing up spoilers isn’t very nice. But I’ve decided that a few spoilers are justified in convincing the skeptics among you that the album is worth your time. If you’d rather not encounter any spoilers, just skip straight to the player after the next paragraph.
At a high level, the music here is a conjoining of mesmerizing melody (both astral and exotic) and flat-out rampaging, of breathtaking instrumental dexterity and brute-force bludgeoning, of cacophonous vocal extremity and fluid melodic diversions that draw upon a diverse array of musical traditions. It’s a display of brazen creative exuberance and rich, kaleidoscopic musical textures that’s persistently dynamic and persistently engrossing.
The band are plainly adept at shock-and-awe campaigns of rampant brutalizaton. The weapons in their arsenal include jet-fast drumming (blizzards of decimating beats coming in rapid bursts, along with pile-driving hammer blows); rapacious riffs (both warped and jolting); loads of swirling, darting, fleet-fingered fretwork; fireburst solos; and a collection of horrid roars, bestial growls, skin-splitting shrieks, and noxious gagging sounds — to name just a few throat-spawned manifestations of lunacy, the words often being spit at the same blinding speed as the pace of the instrumental pyrotechnics.
However, you’ll also encounter soaring waves of glistening, gliding melody, turn-on-a-dime tempo changes… and all those surprises… which include the classically inspired grand-piano instrumental at the outset of “Oculus Nebula”, what sounds like acoustic flamenco guitar in “Bréhaigne” and “Muliebria”, the darting electronica and piano duet within “Celestial Decimation”, and the soulful strains of a saxophone (or something that sounds like one) in that same song.
The mad, magical instrumental dance of “Mario Whirl” will bring a smile to lovers of the Mario Brothers games; the comparatively soft, introspective, acoustic-led instrumental “Refuge Insidieux” is hypnotically beautiful; “Scullion” strikes like an eruption of unhinged grindcore vulcanism; “Celestial Decimation” is a mind-bending 11 1/2-minute tour de force in which the band seem intent on spreading before the listener a rich smorgasbord of all their many capabilities; “Noise”, on the other hand, ends the record in a shroud of droning, astral ambient sound — punctured by glitches — within which speaking voices and haunted whispers can be heard, as if from a long way off.
Ignominies is an album of substantial girth, spanning 13 tracks. But although the band are given to excess, in the sense of packing their enormously dynamic songs with more ingredients and more twists and turns than would be safe in the hands of less capable song-writers and musicians, the album itself doesn’t feel excessive. Two of those tracks are brief, joking interludes (five seconds or less), and a third (“Scullion”) is less than a minute long. But even with those exceptions, there’s still a lot of music in store for you. But the remaining songs are so filled with contrasts, changes, and remarkable performances that losing interest is no risk at all.
And so, to repeat for the hard of hearing, Bookakee are no gimmick, and Ignominies is a hell of a record that’s well worth the time it asks of you.
Ignominies will be released on June 29th by Transcending Records. The mixing, mastering, and drum recording were done by Cryptopsy’s Chris Donaldson at The Grid studio. Vocals, guitars, and bass were recorded by Bookakee guitarist Simon Pierre Gagnon in his home studio. Pre-order via the link below.