Bellhead are a Post-Punk duo made up of two Chicago scene veterans who have left their mark across the tattered live music scene. Consisting of High Bass/ and Lead Vocalist Ivan Russia, formerly of the infamous Ahab Rex, Mr. Russia, and Sheriff Scabs; partnered with Low Bass/Vocalist Karen Righeimer- who has been featured as a current or former member of bands such as Fashion Bomb, Team Cybergeist, W.O.R.M, Now I'm Nothing, mindfluxfuneral, Bethany Thomas, and Pigface.
Sometime in the spring of 2018 during a hard night of consuming adult libations, these two bass slingers decided that a new double-bass project was needed in this world, and ultimately, Bellhead was born.
Their music together as Bellhead can be characterized by two part harmonies along with hard edged bass lines that are littered with drum machine sounds akin to the pummeling of Godlfesh or the sophistication of NIN’S Chris Vrenna. The duos songs may have a simplicity to them but that only hides the dark lyrical content (love, lust, murder, crime, drugs), massive driving beats, and the filthy bass sounds that they can squeeze out of their nebulous and shadow rigs.
Their live show consists of a complete audio and visual attack on one’s senses by using elements of noir film, strobe lights and walls of fog to truly capture the serial killer feel that one feels while being trapped in a large metropolis like Chicago where crime and corruption are the norm.
Bellhead has already set in motion to have a successful 2020. They are featured on the Electronic Saviours Volume 7 compilation, DSBP Records Vol 7 compilation, and have provided direct live support for The Birthday Massacre, Julien-K, and Sister Kill Cycle.
This EP opens up in a promising fashion with a guitar riff that rips in to you but sadly stops almost as soon as it's started. It's a tease, a building of tension as the guitar drops in again and again until the chorus - releasing some of that tension only to stop and repeat the process again. There is a quite famous and somewhat ridiculous Japanese band by the name of Guitar wolf that springs to mind with the punk feel of the melody in this opening track 'Snuff film 1974'. At the same time there is also a simplicity to the layering of instruments that makes it easy to listen to regardless of the aggression evident in the lyrics and the power riffs. You might say it's somewhere between 90's punk and minimalist grunge.
The title track 'Unicorn Bones' has Pigface and Sister machine gun written all over it and it was a real pleasure to find out Karen is indeed a former member of Pigface. There is even a touch of the band Helmet who people may be most familiar with from their track in the film 'The Crow.'
There was a time when industrial was heavily influenced by punk before evolving in to EBM and in this track we hear those best parts of that early evolution brought in to the current year in a rather impressive fashion. There are some very stylish drum beats and clap along parts that Im sure go down very well in a live setting.
'Always' has the same vocal feel of the band King 810 in its intensity and deep, meaningful story telling. It is an ideal mid point track to cleanse the palette of the first two aggressive songs. There is something quite simple yet infinitely satisfying about the approach this song takes. It even reminds me of early Dance Gavin Dance as well in many ways but in a much more respectable Gothic manner.
'Knife' is a Halloween anthem with spooky sedative feels. This is where the serial killer aspect of their lyrics is most prevalent. There is a sense of repetition and the track doesn't really go anywhere but that's okay because it doesn't need too. It is deceptively evil in it's easy listening.
Finally we have 'Sidewinder' which builds up slowly but continuously. The lyrics are clearly aimed at someone they view to be a snake and when the drums kicks in we are treated to a considerable energy boost that brings about their clear love for old school Goth influences such as The sisters of mercy. It finishes the EP off in a burst of aggressive energy that leaves you wholly satisfied.
Bellhead are an unexpected find who have impressed me almost instantly with a twist on traditional genres that I have not quite heard before and the passion Ivan and Karen have is very clear throughout. It seems to me as if they are still trying to discover their ideal sound but it is rather enjoyable as an audience member to experience that journey alongside them when listening to their songs. 'Unicorn Bones' is a real treat for the senses, an unexpected candy bar a friend has handed you when you're hungry for something but you don't know what, it hits the right spots and is rather tasteful.
Dance factor: 6/10
Overall score: 6.6/10
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