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Makahiya - Attack of the Bridgeport Shaman Review

by Mark Hensch

As I spin this six song demo again and again, I find myself swelling with joy in music itself. Not music in terms of a certain genre mind you; no, I'm pleased simply with music as an artform by itself. No matter what kind of trends or styles become popular, there will (hopefully) always be room for improvement, reinterpretation, or innovation. One can be forgiven when it comes to ignorance of such a fact; it is very easy to forget that some musicians out in the world are simply NEVER content with rehashing old ideas or cashing in on currently fashionable ones. I'll wager that if the first aim of art is to express one's personal emotions, the second aim is to create something that has never been done previously. Though at times difficult, it can and does happen, and what a pleasant surprise to us music fans when it does right?

A grand example of this ideal occurs on Chicago natives Makahiya's Attack of the Bridgeport Shaman. As any reader of this column should know, Chicago has a simply booming stoner/doom/sludge scene, brimming with fantastic bands. Despite being filled with acts as strong and diverse as Indian, Couldron, Trifog, Plague Bringer, Raise the Red Lantern, and more, Makahiya neither cowtows to genre norms nor gets lost in the crowd.

The reason for this is that the band is not afraid to meld seemingly unrelated genres into a satisfying, unique, and cohesive whole. Basically, Bridgeport wavers between 1970's Uriah Heep keyboards, soaring Hawkwind glory, and trudging acid-trip Black Sabbath crawl. Psychedelic, trippy, and (dare I say it?) exotic, I'd surely be lying if I said I've heard anything like it before. Oh, and did I mention they employ a mixture of balls-to-the-wall rocking out and quirky, off-the-wall humor as well?

Well they do! Things kick off with a tongue-in-cheek rocker entitled "Night of the Living Dead." As the demo's longest track, it surely has its work cut out for it but as an opening cut the song works damn near-perfectly. Part homage to the classic George A. Romero zombie-flick of the same name, part survival-horror cautionary tale, the song is lyrically a homerun. Musically, the track builds off a moody hum and soon balloons into a garish feeding-frenzy of monstrously drugged-out riffs and floating, spacious keyboards. As the song devolves into a rotting plague of reanimated corpses overrunning humanity, the colorful stoner atmosphere and fist-pumping hard rock vibes take on a sinister undertone the likes of which is the true essence of doom.

"Serpent in the Holy Land" takes this trend one step further, its funkadelic, stomping groove providing an excellent backdrop for a case-study on religious hypocrisy. Subtle keyboard melodies and soaring, emotional vocals propel the track even further, and this catchy tune will have a hook in you quicker than a shady Thai man stealing your kidneys to sell on E-bay after you passed out at a rave.

"Proactive" is just that; Makahiya come out swinging with the most versatile and gripping elements of their arsenal. You name it, the song has it---massive sing-along choruses, sunny keyboards, thick and acidic bass lines, and riffs that sound like Wolfmother with actual balls. There's a little bit of Kyuss to the guitars, and a bit of "rock revivalism" ala Clutch as well. Simple, straightforward, and kickass, this is heavy music that is never pretentious but always confident in its ability to knock your socks off.

"Control" is perhaps the heaviest track on the disc, its mammoth riffs swaying with a behemoth majesty. There is something very classic-rock era radio about this tune, and perhaps Makahiya's sound would be better suited to another age. Besides the plodding guitar, jangling keys tango in the background and the band isn't afraid to let loose a barrage of molten harmonies when the mood strikes them. Great stuff!

Slinking in off a rattling bass-line and a swirling keyboard vortex, "Whitebred and Populist" is the proverbial fire to the powderkeg, its explosive fury outshining pretty much anything else the already-strong disc has to offer. There is a gritty, blue-collar, vibe to this that reeks of St. Vitus or Trouble, and it works. For those not yet tracking with my sentiments, picture a group of virtuous, passionate, and all-around good people playing music that is socially unacceptable to the point of evil. Maybe I'm exaggerating on account of those tantalizingly hellish guitar leads that burn out like cigarettes thrown into the city's gutters, or maybe I'm dead on. Listen and see for yourself.

The unending lighter-waving moment that is "Straight to Hell" ironically combines gospel-toned keyboards, funkadelic hard rock, and fist-pumping vocals into a rousing intervention anthem. The song slides unendingly down this neon glacier of bright colors and lush textures; it is the kind of blissful mindf*** most heavier bands have forgotten we music fans can tolerate. It is a rare thing for me to truthfully say a band is both legitimately heavy yet honestly inspiring at the same time, and Makahiya have nailed it with this song, perhaps even the entire demo. It is a welcome change and the kind of thing our (all too often) bleak world could use much more of.

Empowering, strong, honest, and raw, Makahiya are perhaps most interesting because they could go almost anywhere with their sound on later efforts. Humorous and eclectic? Check. Grooving and psychedelic? You got it. Rocking and rolling, bitching and controlling? Check the label, it will say 100%. The point I'm making is that if you appreciate inherently original music with a heavy yet inviting sense, Makahiya is the band for you. Here's hoping they get a chance to blow an increasing number of minds in the years to come with later releases.

1. Night of the Living Dead
2. Serpent in the Holy Land
3. Proactive
4. Control
5. Whitebred and Populist
6. Straight to Hell

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