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Review: 'The Bestial Floor' by Jonny Halifax and The Howling Truth

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'The Bestial Floor' by Jonny Halifax and The Howling Truth

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Jonny Halifax and The Howling Truth is the second incarnation of the UK-based artist better known throughout the obscure music scene by his one-man band moniker Honkeyfinger. Sound-wise, this new material isn't terribly different from that which appeared on the Honkeyfinger debut Invocation of the Demon Other, only a good deal more. And when I say more, I mean that he has really outdone himself on this one. While the most dominant elements of Jonny’s early sound were the wailing strings of his distorted lap steel slide, the primal pounding of the partial drum kit he operates with his feet, and vocals which alternate between otherworldly howls and a deep and somewhat hoarse half-spoken delivery. Now on his latest release, The Bestial Floor, he offers up the same musical breed of animal, only full grown and fiercer, with sharper claws and fangs, not to mention plenty of well-placed artistic feedback, some looping and programmed drumbeats, and a wider range of vocals, among other things. Be that as it may, his sound has lost none of its skronk, nor its psychedelic blues and primitive rock flavor, nor its louder-than-life approach.

As Jonny Halifax and The Howling Truth, the one-man noise-maker and unorthodox sound architect finds a most agreeable middle ground between lo- and high-tech, organic and mechanical, and uses these accompaniments for all they’re worth. The Bestial Floor opener “Black Desert” is an effective intro instrumental which sets the overall vibe for the thirteen-song album. “21st Century Man” follows, with electric sludge guitar, background clanking and crashing, big punctuating beats, and a steady stream of raging vocals. “Wiseblood” comes at the listener in waves of squealing distorted slide work and a 1-2-3 beat of hi-hat and kick drum and ashtray vocals. “Home Sweet Home,” definitely one of the album’s standouts, is a creative piece of bluescore fused to an electro-clash monolith of bone and metal. Muddy classic guitar rock with an ascending pattern and stomp percussion, together with a mighty vocal delivery, is the sound assemblage for the great “Creeping Jesus” track. Halifax puts away his aggressive side for a few minutes with “The Mountain,” a slow-moving piece of dark psychedelia with a rock undercurrent and spectral vocals. Then, in “Stormbringer,” after a hypnotic lead-in, he brings the noise again, with big fuzzed-out chords, equally big snare hits, a little harmonica, and his trademark vocals. I could go on and on here and describe each and every song on the album, but by doing so I would only cheat the listener. Part of the music experience is discovering what an artist’s songs consist of on their own. So I will leave all of you fringe music enthusiasts and music junkies to it.

Another thing about Jonny’s musical endeavors—he assigns his songs the very best titles. Take the new album, for instance, with such awesome song titles as “March of the Organ Grinder,” “Fever Rising,” and “Waltzing Messiah.” Not only the titles but the overall sound of the album lends it a gospel-heavy and post-apocalyptic feel. Each title perfectly matches the sound aspect of the corresponding song, in other words. To be sure, Jonny Halifax isn’t your average songsmith; no, he is a true artist, head, hands and feet, and meat and bone. Through and through.

If you are a fan of Honkeyfinger’s Invocation of the Demon Other, you will almost certainly find Jonny Halifax and The Howling Truth’s The Bestial Floor just as amazing, if not more so. And like Invocation…, Bestial has been independently released by Jonny himself. Unlike the former, however, the latter was released under the identifying label of Greasy Noise rather than Hoarse Records. No matter, that, because all one need do to get their hands on a copy is visit Jonny’s Bandcamp page here. Enjoy!

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