Review Summary: What happens when Mastodon plays Godspeed
After winning Belgium's most famous rock contest at the age of 15, Steak Number Eight's mix of sludge metal and post-rock has quickly become the most exciting sound to emerge from Belgium. Their first album 'When the Candle Dies Out...' (2008) was well received, and the expectations for the follow-up were extremely high. They went to Los Angeles to work with Matt Bayles (producer of Mastodon), who helped them expand their sound. With an average age equal to 18 years old and 'All Is Chaos' as a solid album to back them up, Steak Number Eight seems ready to start conquering the rest of the world.
Ironically, the album opens with the most adolescent song they have ever made. 'Dickhead' is sludgy post-metal at its best, but without the classical pathos that seems to be inherent to the genre. Just an outlet for rage and frustration, oozing with agression. The vocals of singer Brent Vanneste have significantly improved since their debut, and with his monstruous screams on songs like 'Pyromaniac' he seems to channel Aaron Turner from Isis.
After the two heaviest songs on the album, the post-rock influence slowly but steady kicks in. With its short playtime and almost catchy chorus, 'The Calling' is an excellent single. 'Stargazing' arguably is the best song on the album, and is reminiscent of Oceansize's heavier side. The culmination of the post-rock angle is 'Track into the Sky', which starts with a Slintesque intro, only to grow slowly like a Godspeed song to an incredible climax, further strengthened by the addition of a choir.
The longest song on the album is 'Drowning in Your Blood', which shows how Steak Number Eight manages to blend ambient with sludge metal to increase tension. Much like Tool's 'Tick & Leeches', the lingering silence creeps up and fills the listener with anticipation. Its impressive how such a young band can master all these aspects of music so quickly.
There seems to be only little room left for improvement for Steak Number Eight. The clean vocals could benefit from less sound effects or could be dropped all together. The symbiosis of post-metal and post-rock may seem like neither fish nor fowl for some, so a little more focus could improve the overal cohesion of their albums. Still, for such a young band to put out a record like this is highly exceptional, and they deserve to get some more attention.
Standout tracks: Dickhead, Stargazing, Track into the Sky