Canadian expat and adventurous alto saxophone maestro Peter Van Huffel created Gorilla Mask around 2010 with Berliners Roland Fidezius (electric bass/effects) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums) to give jazz a swift kick in the nuts with its punk/metal intensity. 2011’s Howl! was followed by the rambunctious live date Bite My Blues (2014). Both of these records can be summed up as “direct, confrontational…thrash-jazz…that’s more purposeful, unpredictable and just plain fun.”
The mission on Gorilla Mask’s third long player Iron Lung, now out on Clean Feed Records, is much the same: Fidezius and Fischerlehner may improvise, but they are rarely playing actual jazz (save for part of “Steam Roller”). They and Van Huffel form a short, stout unit that brings spontaneity and, at times, some math-like complexity to metal. Van Huffel finds no difficulty thriving in the foundation the rhythm section lays for him, often able to simply handle the lyrical parts while complex rhythms, figures and pure passion swelters underneath. That makes the moments where Van Huffel does shred stand out all the more.
The machine gun staccato of “Hammerhead” is pretty amazing with how the three dance around each other staying in this same, staggered pulse. It’s concentrated sonic dynamite packed in three minutes. Fidezius’ imposing bass pattern complemented by Van Huffel’s howling alto dominates “Before I Die,” but Fischerlehner temporarily downshifts the proceedings to a reggae groove, when Fidezius furiously strums his bass.
A tsunami of beats and notes introduce “Steam Roller” before breaking out into jazz swing that quickly dissolves into delectable chaos. “Lullaby For A Dead Man” is not as docile as this sounds, as Van Huffel and Fidezius engage in some harmolodics together. The three take a respite on “Crooked,” a free flowing, ardent locution by Van Huffel.
Later on is the title song: “Iron Lung” is probably their most successful convergence of ferocity, groove and harmony found on this album, and Van Huffel puts on an impressive show of wailing saxophone acrobatics. And finally, “Chained,” previously performed live on Bite My Blues — and a bonus track not available on the vinyl version — might better be called “off the chain” because the punk rock comes thundering down, gets ever more unhinged as they surge forward off a cliff before regrouping around the rapid, stout circular figure.
Purchase Iron Lung here.