IMAAD WASIF – Strange Hexes (Self-released)

I stumbled across this artist on an indie website, and was intrigued enough to sample his latest album ‘The Voidist’. Being mightily impressed with its indie/folk vibe and excellent songs I went back to hear some more and was pointed in the direction of his 2008 album with Two Part Beast, ‘Strange Hexes’ This could not be more different from his new one, being nothing less than the reincarnation of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse on a stunning set of songs where both Wasif and the band just let loose and rock out. I had never heard of either artist nor band before, but a little googling elicited the facts that he was once in The New Folk Implosion, and was latterly touring guitarist for The Yeah Yeah Yeahs on their ‘Show Your Bones’ tour. That gig obviously influenced his change of direction from the introspective folk of his 2005 debut to this monster of a rock album. ‘Wanderlusting’ starts off inconspicuously with Wasif’s tuneful vocal over a rolling rhythm and some melodic guitar lines, but in only takes a couple of minutes before the volume is turned up on the guitar and from then on it is full blown rock all the way, culminating in one of those discordant guitar solos so beloved of Neil Young. It fades away far too quickly, to be replaced by the power chords of ‘Unveiling’, with Wasif’s understated vocals contrasting with the swathes of guitar on the chorus. ‘Halcyon’ is a different entity, being more controlled in the early part, but still managing to keep the power chords in reserve for the finale. ‘Oceanic’ slows the pace right down, but it could hardly be called a ballad as the muscle is still very much in evidence, and as is so often the case this format lets Wasif deliver a particularly memorable solo. ‘Spell’ is a mix of acoustic ballad and heavy rocker, crudely welded together in the middle to produce another great song. Wasif’s pretensions might just get the better of him on songs like ‘Seventh Sign’ and ‘The Oracle’, but the band do a great job in holding it together for him, and musically they are still cracking tracks, especially when the guitar kicks in at the end of ‘The Oracle’. ‘Lesser Banshee’ is one of the heaviest tracks on the record, with some weighty guitar chords opening the song, and then continuing through the chorus until they are suddenly cut short at the end of the track, and ‘Abyss’ closes this excellent album with a moody piece of guitar-led psychedelia. I have to say that I was blown away by this album on the very first hearing, as this is just the sort of guitar-heavy rock music that I love, and no-one seems to be making it these days. Unfortunately I can’t advise you to keep an eye out for his next release, as it is already here, and once again Wasif has reinvented himself to deliver a fine set of indie-rock songs, but for me this is the one which will keep returning to the player.