There were a few raised eyebrows recently when Holy Roar Records announced that two of their charges, Slabdragger and Wren, were to release a split featuring a cover of a Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart track, respectively. These are two of the 70’s most innovative virtuosos and, as such, it would take a seriously ballsy effort to do them justice and to put their own stamp on it.
First up is power-trio Slabdragger doing Zappas’ ‘Muffin Man’, and the first thing of note is the use of the same spoken-word intro, with added horror-movie vibe from the original. What’s obvious from the get-go is that this is the band in a more playful bouncy mood more similar to debut Regress than follow up Rise Of The Dawncrusher. There is definitely a lot of trademark Slabdragger sounds here, big riffs with heavily down-tuned drones, funky bass solos and some ripping lead guitar too, but it’s probably the unexpected use of a Hammond organ and synthesized vocals that takes them into new territory, which works brilliantly, adding to the loose jammy feel of the whole track. The song ends with the whole tempo going down, repeating the main riff slower and heavier to a crushing finale.
Wren has taken a completely different approach, covering Captain Beefheart’s ‘Electricity’ and making it an altogether different beast almost unrecognisable from the original. A slow melodic start gives way to a Doom Juggernaut and then into blackened/post-metal tremolo picking over a pounding drum beat and pained eerie vocals. Around halfway into the 8-minute track, the rest of the band drops out leaving just the bass to build back up again, resulting in a brutal ending when they come crashing back in. Wren arguably had the trickier task of the two and their dark, brooding rendition perfectly complements Slabdraggers’ slightly tongue-in-cheek fun.
Mothers Of Beef And The Magic Of Invention is out now on Holy Roar Records. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr