They have the potential to be a genuine mainstream rock act.
Chris White 2009
The world is not exactly overflowing with Belgian post-hardcore alternative rock groups. But with videos that feature the construction of armies of naked women from the carcasses of dead animals by a modern-day Dr Frankenstein and sleeve art inspired by Brazilian horror/sexploitation film maker Zé do Caixão (aka Coffin Joe, for the uninitiated), Antwerp’s The Hickey Underworld certainly provide a fairly unique audio-visual experience.
Some of their imagery may be an acquired taste, but the band’s self-titled debut album is a surprisingly accessible collection of no-nonsense yet tuneful guitar dynamics. Formed in 2005 by singer Younes Faltakh and guitarist Jonas Govaerts, the Hickey Underworld have been compared to such luminaries as Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana, Muse and fellow countrymen dEUS, but their closest musical kin may in fact be Texan prog-punks The Mars Volta and, perhaps more encouragingly for their future record sales, early Guns N’ Roses.
Despite lacking the subtler sonic textures of a Deloused in the Crematorium, this record shares the Volta’s knack for effectively combining ear-splitting walls of noise with quieter, more melodic passages that are almost soothing, no more so than on standout track Blue World Order. And an Appetite for Destruction-like gift for simple, driving hooks is also apparent on the chart-friendly anthem Future Words and the heavier but no less immediate Blonde Fire, although Faltakh, while a vocalist of decent range, has yet to discover the swagger of an Axl Rose.
It’s not all good news; Zorayda is a tone-deaf holler, Of Asteroids and Men… Plus Added Wizardry is as bad as its title suggests, and the lyrics are ridiculous throughout. Yet those who have visited The Hickey Underworld’s website and understandably expect an onslaught of death metal that makes Cradle of Filth sound like The Carpenters should think again before either recoiling in horror or reaching gleefully for their inverted crucifixes.
The Belgian boys have proved on this first offering that while they’re certainly no shrinking violets when it comes to the art of hard riffing, they have the potential to be a genuine mainstream act with broad appeal if they are able to further develop the songwriting skills intermittently displayed here. Although what Radio 2 listeners will make of Coffin Joe and the Hickeys’ more eccentric flourishes is anybody’s guess.