Sometimes I wish I lived in the UK, as so many of the artists and bands I like seem to be located there. I’ve featured many of them on this blog, and today I introduce Bad Llama, an alternative metal five-piece based in Burton Upon Trent. I was happy they contacted me about their EP, because I became hooked on their music at first listen.
They formed little more than a year ago in early 2016, and in fairly short order released their debut EP Shedding Skin last September. Blending 90s rock, funk and metal with modern industrial and progressive sounds, Bad Llama creates music overflowing with intricate melodies, complex arrangements, powerful instrumentals, intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals.
Making all this great music are Kyle Jordan (Vocals), Lewis Hutchings (Bass), Gaz Waddell (Drums), Dan Houlbrooke (Guitar) and Sam Wyatt (Guitar and Backing vocals). The band made their first live appearance at the 02 Academy 3 in Birmingham in October 2016 and have since played there again. They also appeared on Johnny Doom’s show Amp’d on Birmingham TV (a video of that appearance is at the end of this review), and have played a number of venues throughout the Midlands.
From the moment we hear the mysterious haunting synths at the beginning of the stunning first track “The Healer,” the song begins to cast its spell. Then jangly guitars, heavy bass and pounding drums enter the picture, drawing us in until a waterfall of swirling and snarling guitars rain down upon our dazed ears, leaving us helplessly in thrall. After just one track, it’s safe to conclude that these guys are masters of their respective instruments. Jordan’s powerful vocals are mesmerizing, going from vulnerable one moment to passionately raw the next as he implores: “Your silence speaks volumes to me / Maybe everything isn’t as it seems.”
“The Wolf You Feed” takes a darker turn, with gritty, wailing guitars and cymbal-heavy percussion creating a foreboding sense of doom. Jordan’s vocals once again run the gamut from smoldering to anguished screams, adding complexity and power to the track. The video was filmed in an abandoned warehouse, and features menacing images of ghoulish characters tormenting the band, alternating with scenes of them performing the song outside the warehouse.
Houlbrooke and Wyatt show off their guitar-playing chops on the exhilarating “Paint in Sound,” as the song opens with a rapid-fire riff before we’re treated to layers of shredded, swirling and distorted guitars. Hutchings’ throbbing bass adds heft to the track, while Waddell pounds out the driving beat. Jordan pleads “Is this prison? Give me something to live for.” His captivating vocals take center stage on “10 Years Time” as he goes from tender falsetto to fiercely intense and everything in between. As to be expected, the instrumentals on this track are outstanding.
Last, but certainly not least, is “Exile,” a brooding, six minute long epic. The intricate guitar work on this track is extraordinary, at once both powerfully intense and achingly beautiful. Hutchings’ bass is so heavy I could feel it pressing against my chest. And it goes without saying that Jordan’s incredible vocal range is on full display, rising to an ear-splitting crescendo before things calm back down by song’s end.
There isn’t a standout track on Shedding Skin, as all five of them are superb. It’s a great EP, and I’m confident we’ll soon be hearing more phenomenal tunes from Bad Llama.
Here’s a video of their appearance on Johnny Doom’s Amp’d: