Engine Kid – Angel Wings

4 min read

Band: Engine Kid
Title: Angel Wings
Label: Southern Lord
Release Date: 3 July 2020 (Digital Remaster)
Country: USA
Format Reviewed: Digital Download

If you were to tell me there’s a band out there sounding like a mix of Shellac, Slint, early Neurosis and late 80s college rock I would say to you “must be tremendous. Who are these musical magicians and where can I find such a wonderful concoction?”

And it goes a little something like this…

“Hello self”
“I just discovered a band that sounds like a mix of Shellac, Slint, early Neurosis and late 80s college rock”
“That must be tremendous. Who are these musical magicians and where can I find such a wonderful concoction?”
“They’re called Engine Kid and their album Angel Wings is name your price on bandcamp. Get it downloaded now”
“I’m all over it. Thanks bro”
“I got you fam”

So I did wonder to myself “how is it that a band in 2020 sounds so much like it fits into the early/mid 90s?” And then it all became clear…

Engine Kid were formed in Seattle, USA in 1991 by guitarist/ vocalist Greg Anderson (of Southern Lord and Sun O))) fame – among his many other projects), drummer Chris Vandebrooke and bassist Art Behrman. After releasing their first album “Bear Catching Fish” in 1993, Vanderbrooke was replaced by Jade Devitt and the band recorded their second and final album “Angel Wings” in 1995 before breaking up. In 2016 Vandebrooke was tragically murdered at a homeless shelter and now four years later both albums have been remastered and are available for whatever you want to pay for them (with all proceeds going to the Midnight Mission, a homeless services provider in Los Angeles www.midnightmission.org). By the time I learned all this backstory I was already totally blown away by “Angel Wings” and had to write about it.

“Angel Wings” is unlike any album I’ve ever heard. If you listen to it, you’ll probably find that my reference points don’t wholly capture all the elements at play here. The Slint influence is clear, with very pronounced quiet/ loud dynamics throughout the album. But it’s also been noted how the band was influenced by Jazz as well as extreme metal like Carcass. When I open the album on my itunes, I’m presented with the information ‘unknown genre – 2020’ and I’ll probably never mess with that, as I don’t know how you’d go about neatly defining the sound this album wields. There’s a certain lo-fi abrasiveness throughout and something harsh and rugged about the production and the delivery. Beyond that, it’s its own singular, raging beast, often occupying this grey area somewhere between Metal, Hardcore, Rock and quite possibly one or two more genres while they’re at it.

The whole thing is so emotionally charged. “Holes to Fight In” is a great opening track that gives off the furious uneasiness of early Neurosis (“Pain of Mind” / “The Word as Law” era). Claustrophobic as it is electrically charged. This Hardocre/ borderline Metal feel can also be heard on instrumental “Nailgun”, and the brilliant “Anchor”, which as well as featuring a bagpipes intro(!) showcases some of the brilliant drumming on the album and a perfect example of the intense quiet/ loud dynamics, where you will be lulled into a false sense of security before the next Post-Hardcore, fiery riff is dumped on your head like a toolshed in a twister.

The bass playing throughout is prominent in the mix and the bass lines are really key to the overall sound. It’s no surprise the band were a three piece as neither bass, guitar or drums ever feel like they’re just playing along with the rest of the band. Every element is always contributing something powerful and interesting.

“Expressionists” has something of a loose, funky Fugazi feel about it, as the band lurch to and fro. Harsh and ragged it feels like the instruments are forcefully yanking against each other in a never ending struggle to force which direction the listener will be taken.

The brooding “Jumper Cables”combines another Slint homage with more allusions to early Neurosis in their more ambient and reflective moments. It’s on the following track “Stitches” however that the album reaches possibly its emotional gut-punch peak, with a slow, mournful dirge of guitar feedback and dragging drums rolls that reminds me of The Red House Painters in its vulnerable bleakness.

For the remainder of the album “Fanbelt” and “Herbie Hancock” take the lister back to the more overtly abrasive side of the band. The former track reminiscent of Today Is The Day, sounding rabid and distressed, while the latter instrumental track with its lurching rhythm even has a bit of early Rollins Band about it, or Godflesh, with its insistent, percussive, bass heavy pulsations.

A suitable culmination to the whole harrowing journey “Lie Like Knives” is as dark and slow burning as oil on the ocean and as explosively charged as you might expect from the title, the feedback-drenched guitars sounding like molten metal forged in a furnace. Any more intensity and I’ll need someone to administer the smelling salts.

Engine Kid came to me out of nothing. At this stage in my life I can’t help but be stunned when I discover music this powerful that’s just been sitting there for years fully accessible if I’d just known where to look. “Angel Wings” is an explosive 46 minutes of raging fire in a self-contained world. Kudos to Southern Lord for pulling this back out into the light. What an album, what a band. 9/10 Tom Boatman 


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