Judging by the name KingBathmat, one might think that the music contained on the group’s newest LP, Truth Button, would be an inaccessible mess of eclectic madness. Luckily, the opposite is true; in fact, it’s been awhile since I’ve heard such a tightly arranged and melodically enjoyable collection. The album oozes with psychedelic style and exceptional harmonies, too, which makes it an absolute joy from beginning to end.
Like most great prog bands, KingBathmat hails from England. A trio, the outfit was founded about a decade ago by singer/bassist/songwriter John Basset before Lee Sulsh (guitar) and Bernie Smirnoff (drums) joined. Their sound has been compared to that of Black Sabbath, ELO, Pink Floyd, and Kasabian, and they claim to create “a sonic expedition, a giddy aural excursion, visiting genres as diverse and contrary as the complex arrangements that inhabit ‘progressive rock’ interlaced with the cutting vocal melodies of ‘classic pop’ that then tear abruptly into an uncompromising sledgehammer heavy metal riff.” Yeah, that’s about right. Truth Button is an album that impresses instantly and then reveals more and more depth with each listen. It’s really fantastic.
“Behind the Wall” launches the album with heavy metal riffs before drifting into dreamy arpeggios and a delicate melody. Basset’s voice is cool and emotive. Really, both his voice and the music sort of resemble the classic output of Nektar (but with more of an edge). Near the end, the track ventures into some crazy instrumental bits that, of course, harken back to the production of Magical Mystery Tour. It’s invigorating, and fortunately, they keep up the quality throughout the album.
The mixture of abstract interludes and conventional structures in “Abintra” are exceptional, and the dynamic shifts between 90s grunge and 70s Canterbury is alluring. “Book of Faces” contains just as many expertly executed transitions, and its riffs harken back to Sabbath and Zeppelin. There’s a bit more emotion on “The End of Evolution,” and with its lovely songwriting and affective movements, it’s easily one of the best tracks on Truth Button. Like the entire album, the track also features some wonderfully appealing timbres. As for “Dives and Peppers,” its focus on orchestration allows it to stand out.
Album closer “Coming to Terms with Mortality in the Face of Insurmountable Odds” is the longest and most layered track. It begins fairly commonly with nice echo effects and passionate musicianship and soft strings (actually, it feels a bit like a hard rock lullaby). The middle section jam feels like a mixture of classic Genesis and ELO, and its conclusion features beautiful piano and ominous effects. It’s exactly how a band should close its record.
Truth Button is a superb release from beginning to end. KingBathmat draws from some diverse influences to create its fairly unique blend of psych/prog/hard rock (although its sound has a lot in common with American quartet, Bigelf). Best of all, the tracks share common ground, making the album flow quite smoothly. Not many bands could produce something this great so far into their careers, and one can only hope that the album brings its creators as much attention and success as possible.