A decade after their last full length release “The Feeding” the reformed and recalibrated American Head Charge are back with long awaited new album Tango Umbrella the follow up to 2013’s Shoot EP.
AHC always seemed to be a little left field, their chaotic but melodious alt-metal definitely stood out amongst their peers, whilst tracks like “Just so you know” got them some wider recognition they were always a little more chaotic, dangerous, unhinged but undeniably skilled than the likes of Slipknot (who shrinkwrapped and marketed chaos to the masses with great success) and other bands of the late 90’s early 2000’s. Can AHC still deliver though or is this another band trying to recapture their former glory?
AHC’s biggest asset (and arguably biggest hindrance) has always been vocalist Cameron Heacock, possessing both a range and savage emotional intensity that is seldom seen. Switching between a powerful roar, strong, melodic singing, unhinged chanting, whispering and screaming. Often within the same song and within the space of a breath. So it’s no surprise that Heacock is once again one of the most impressive elements of Tango Umbrella as a whole. First cut “Let All The World Believe” is classic AHC, a tapestry of chainsaw guitars, scattered drums, chunky bass and keyboard effects, it’s follow up “Drowning Under Everything” with Chad Hanks bass coming to the fore and Heacock laying down some soaring clean vocals along with screaming that really hammers home that AHC are back with a vengeance.
There’s always been an air imminent chaotic collapse with AHC and “Perfectionist” is a brilliant demonstration, starting off with a furious intro before leading into some snaking melodious guitar work and Heacock screaming “I can’t resist throwing it all away”, just one of the self reflective lyrical compositions on offer. One of the biggest surprises though comes in the form of “A King Among Men”, a sombre affair with clean keys and Heacock being his most harmonious, it’s the kind of track that demonstrates how versatile AHC are as a band and is a little reminiscent of “Downstream” from “The Feeding”. The kind of track that will no doubt confuse the less adventurous of listeners, but chances are if you’re listening to AHC you don’t inhabit a musical cul de sac. AHC’s hallmark has always been a heady mix of unhinged fury and weird atmospheric touches and it’s on the hook laden “Antidote” and “Prolific Catastrophe” where they really hit pay dirt, a swirling maelstrom of noise which finds Heacock crooning “Come get your medicine”in the former and rasping “I don’t wanna see you. Prolific catastrophe” in the latter, whilst “Down and Depraved” features the haunting and whispered refrain “This is what you’re getting” which really comes across like a threat.
AHC are so cohesive as a musical unit that often the talents of Christopher Emery, Karma Singh Cheema, Justin Fowler, Ted Hallows and Chad Hanks just become part of the chaotic soundtrack to Cameron Heacock’s vocal flexibility and that’s meant as a compliment rather than belittling their contributions. Nowhere does it seem like this is a band that’s just phoning it in for a quick buck, which is often the case when a band reforms after a break. Whilst it might not pack quite the eclectic and scattered delights of their big label debut “Tango Umbrella” is a triumphant return for one of the best alt bands of the 2000’s.