July 15, 2012 by Dan Swinhoe
The musical landscape has changed alot since 2001. Metalcore and Nu-Metal have died off (for the most part), and a general trend for resurrecting bands from the past is now in style. Will a band who never made it to the big-time back then be able to cut it now?
The last time anyone heard from Haji’s Kitchen [aside from a couple songs on a Dragonball Z DVD] was 2001’s Sucker Punch, a decent slab of Grungey Nu-Metal; Alice in Chains down-tuned and given some shreddy Thrash influences. Sadly the band never really got off the ground, label wranglings and public indifference meant the band never reached any real level of success, and now this and their self-titled debut are online rarities to buy, though available for cheeky downloads if you look hard enough.
Formed in the early nineties in Texas and named after smell of a curry, their progress was also stalled by various members leaving, especially on vocals. They’ve had a different singer for each of their three albums. Fast forward to 2010 and the band, comprising of Eddie Head & Brett Stine on guitars, Derek Blakley on bass and Rob Stankiewicz on drums, started becoming more active again, albeit sans Vocalist. After seeing videos of TessseracT online, decided to approach their singer Dan Tompkins about working with them. After recording a couple of tracks, they decided to try and overcome the distance issue [Tompkins is based in Nottingham, UK] and record a full album, something that TesseracT couldn’t manage with their new singer Elliot Coleman.
Opening with Nocturnus, the band lead with all guns blazing. A big shredding Djent-styled start that builds to a big vocal statement from Tompkins. It’s a great opener and clear evidence over a decade out of the game hasn’t dulled the band, but given them a bit of fire. The Grunge influences of previous albums has been left, and in it’s place is a sound closer to Tool or A Perfect Circle.
After a quick ambient instrumental, there’s a three-song hit of Nu-Metal Rock and Metal. The band’s roots show through nicely here, and the songs are very reminiscent of the nineties, but without sounding dated. Day After Day and Notch see Tompkins using more of a bark than he’s been heard using before, and almost raps at times, but still pulls out huge melodic choruses at regular intervals. Throughout the album there’s an overarching sense of groove that just seem inherent in bands from Texas and that ties the whole thing together. The band sway from Rock to Nu-Metal and Djent at various points, but keep it together really well.
Warrior is another highlight; apparently inspired by a trip Tompkins took to the Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico, the lyrics are about the Mayan civilization and human sacrifice. Suitably epic lyrical content suit a song that starts with some crushing riffs and ends with another big chorus. TwentyTwelve ends with Sidhartha, a prog-esque instrumental that Steve Vai would be proud of. A mid-paced chugger that builds to a staggered Djent monster with an angry solo that acts as a wind-down to the album proper.
At only 35 minutes long, it can be hard to really get TwentyTwelve. It’s over far too quickly and could have done with an extra song or two to really make it a listening experience. But leaving listeners wanting more is also a way to guarantee they come back for more. The album does come with instrumental versions the whole album [a general trend among prog/Djent bands], which add a nice perspective of things, but feel like they’re missing something compared to the vocal version. Compared to Tompkin’s work in Skyharbor or TesseracT, TwentyTwelve lacks some of the adventurous songwriting nous. But it’s a thoroughly enjoying slab of nineties-style metal, and for a band that hasn’t been seen in over ten year, one of the most respectable comeback albums you’ll ever hear.