by Brian J. Audette
It’s official, Megafauna’s latest LP is here and in more ways than one, it’s out of this world. While I had been aware of this band’s work since shortly after their 2010 debut, it wasn’t until 2014’s Maximalist that I felt they truly perfected their unique fusion of proto-metal, psych, and prog. Backed by a stellar rhythm section, frontwoman Dani Neff’s meaty guitar hooks and alluringly haunting vocals rounded out just the right combination of classic and modern, delivered like a drop kick of pure rock energy. I wouldn’t have given a second thought were they to have done more of the same on their next release, but flying in the face of expectations Megafauna have chosen to test their proto-metal chops in orbit with their latest LP: the haunting, spacey Welcome Home.
Produced by Bright Light Social Hour’s Curtis Roush, Welcome Home benefits from his lessons learned on that band’s most recent release Space is Still the Place. While prog, psych, and space rock all share more than a little DNA, it’s not a no brainer that these styles fit together as nicely as they do here and that’s both a credit to the album’s production and the band’s expertise. The first major difference between Welcome Home and Megafauna’s previous releases is the treatment of Neff’s vocals, here drenched in reverb. It’s an affectation that doesn’t work for all singers, but with Neff only serves to accentuate her already haunting vocal delivery. The instrumentation as well has been given a spacier vibe in places, opener “Desire”‘s warbley deep space echo being a solid example. Follow up “Doubt” takes a slightly different approach however as the most single-worthy track on Welcome Home. Somewhat more grounded off the bar, it’s a straight up, solid rock tune that drives hard and fast, and features some ferocious guitar licks.
“Panpsychist” investigates some heady thoughts, its opening lyrics asking “Can the whole house really hear me as I stroke my hair and these sheets?” and boldly showcases the power of Megafauna’s rhythm section. After opening with a distorted bass line that’s later mimicked on guitar, drummer Zack Humphrey gets to drive the track with some seriously serpentine beats, dwarfed only momentarily by Neff’s soaring outro.
“It’s So Simple” feature’s Neff at her most Bjork-like. A quieter tune, its spacey, haunting drones backing the vocal rise and fall while a hazy guitar strums over a sultry bass line. At the album’s midpoint the track “Interlude” does just that and offers up a primarily instrumental segue reminiscent of those on space-rock legends Failure’s seminal LP Fantastic Planet.
Welcome Home‘s second half opens with “Gala” a track featuring a nice blend of styles with some space-prog jangle rock, punctuated by savory rock hooks. “Hogs Out” is easily the most progressive track on the album. Opening with a march-like authoritarian beat and progressing into a frantic undulating verse, the track is interspersed with otherworldly guitar swells, and more change ups than you can shake a metronome at. The album culminates in the titular “Welcome Home” a meandering epic of highs, lows, and stratospheric swells that stretch into the distance as the song and the album spiral to completion.
All told, Welcome Home is another solid release by Megafauna and I’ve got to hand it to them for choosing to explore this spin on their already solid sound as opposed to staying in safe waters. I won’t call it a next step though, nor will I refer to it as a departure. Welcome Home is just another facet or perhaps (given the album’s otherworldly nature) an alternate reality. Objectively there’s nothing better or worse about this incarnation of Megafauna, they’re still the accomplished proto-metal rockers they’ve always been, but for the moment, they’re doing their rocking from space.
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bjaudette.