Bawang from Canmore, Alberta, Canada, was initially formed several years ago as the brainchild of bass player and vocalist Michael Kragt. The band went through several iterations before it reached its ultimate line up with Gavin Boutet on drums and Kyle Pullan on guitar. All band members have vast musical backgrounds of recording and playing live, and individually they’re all involved with other gigging bands in very diverse genres. Bawang brought the trio together as they all share a passion for heavier music, which includes metal, grunge, punk, stoner and alternative. All songs on their latest release, Schizo Manifest, were written by Kragt who lived and toured in Europe all through the ’90s and early 2000's before moving to Canada. The album was recorded in the band’s rehearsal jam room in Canmore over three days. It was engineered and mixed using Reaper by the band’s friend Dave Crewe (drummer of Northern Quarter), produced by Michael Kragt and mastered by fingerstyle guitarist Antoine Dufour in Montreal. The artwork, found on Bandcamp, was custom made by Canmore local artist Michael Wachter. The band marks Primus, The Melvins, Queen, No Means No and Bad Brains as their most notable influences. Sample pads (audio bites, vintage commercials and spoken word) are a mainstay in the band’s live shows and can be heard on this album as well.
The beginning to “Pitchfork” is well, in a word, tasty. The low-end bass lines, the deep drum rhythms and jagged guitar riffs – it all sounds good. This trio has fantastic full-blown sounds – rich, warm tones that mix old classic rock style (‘70s KISS) with early grunge (Mother Love Bone, Alice in Chains). “Love Lust Lies” continues to carry on a rich, meaty guitar sound – with a harder edge here – I would say more on the metal side of grunge – if that makes sense. In other words, Bawang’s music is worth turning up loud! I also liked the solo and musical breaks here, too. “Hold On” starts off with what sounds like some airport terminal noise with muffled voices in the background. The funky groove and beat are good on this song and the guitar riffs are catchy, too. A quick sample of a woman’s voice issuing a familiar warning of “keeping personal items with you” (the kind you would hear on a public bus or maybe a light rail line) starts off the next song, “Eye4nEye.” It’s the shortest song on the album, not to mention one of the band’s most punk styled numbers – a good head bobbing song for sure.
“Like Me” begins with some police calls coming through a cop car radio and then a fantastic low rhythmic groove by Boutet and Pullan. I thought this one was very dark and tribal, and I enjoyed the band’s energy a lot here. Very heavy sounds overall and a tune I would highly recommend listening to. “The Drifter” starts off with the old school tone of “the phone lady” telling you you’ve reached the wrong number – however, she wasn’t speaking in English – I think it was French or German. Anyway, this tune has got plenty of great drive to it and reminded me in some ways of Stone Temple Pilots. The guitar solo had a fantastic classic metal style – Iron Maiden perhaps? “Dead Time” begins with a mysterious sound, an impressive load of jagged guitar riffs and Primus like bass lines. Dang, listen to this one, too – you won’t regret it if you like the heavy stuff. The child narration during the solo break was quite creepy – “This ain’t no story time – this is the dead time.” The band funks it up on “Walk Away” a tune that showcases catchy bass lines, rapping like singing and classic guitar riffs. Faith No More and Jane’s Addiction come to mind with this one.
Next up is “The Meat” and it starts with a quick narration (which I think is in Chinese or Korean) and then the song transitions into a heavy funk rock vibe. There was something humorous about this tune, I’m not sure why I was thinking this. Bands like Primus, Faith No More and even Ace Frehley’s band Frehleys’ Comet come to mind (Ace Frehley did have some tongue-in-cheek comical moments back in the day). The band’s last tune “Schizo” starts off with one of the best intros from any new trio I’ve heard in quite some time. In my opinion, I thought the band saved their best for last with this closer. There’s funk, metal, punk and a whole lot of fantastic grooves and attitude going on here. Good stuff! All things considered, Bawang’s Schizo Manifest didn’t have one bad tune. A lot of high energy and great chemistry going on with this Canadian trio.
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