The debut album from LA quintet Here Lies Man is being promoted with the question: “What if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat?”
It certainly grabs the attention, but potentially smacks of gimmicky conceit. Thankfully, being the brainchild of Marcos Garcia from the Fela Kuti-inspired Antibalas, what we get is a genuine hybrid of styles rather than a hipster mash-up. Opening track When I Come To establishes the formula that they pretty much stick to for the rest of the album: chunky fuzz riffs riding a busy polyrhythmic groove, with lots of congas in the mix plus Garcia’s throaty, invocatory vocals. There’s an obvious comparison to be made with Goat, but Here Lies Man deliver a heavier, denser take on ethno-psychedelia. Yet the really intriguing element to their sound is the distorted, high-register organ melodies that warble overhead like exotic birds in the forest canopy, and recall the tropical dub rock of Sun Araw. They occasionally stray from their formula – I Stand Alone ends with a hypnotic drum break over an eerie ambient pulse and So Far Away has a spacey garage-horror vibe – but this is an album that crackles with a blazing, single-minded intensity, celebrating the riff as a cross-cultural mantra.