When I first heard Four Stroke Baron, I had no idea they were going to be one of my favorite finds of the year. “What kind of a name is that?” I thought, bracing for the worst. Man, was I floored by what I found. A pummeling barrage of progressive metal with crushing riffs and a blazing 1980’s synth crescendos that just don’t quit, yet really lit my fire was the vocals. Bucking the metal cliche of trying to come off as heavy and bröötal as possible, vocalist Kirk Witt delivers powerful lyrics in a meek and almost anxious style that puts you on edge and adds a sense of forlorn urgency to many of the tracks.
The pleasantly odd vibe of Four Stroke Baron doesn’t stop at their sound. Their latest release Monoqueen (Prosthetic Records), an EP full of subtle details that even the most selective of metal connoisseurs will find refreshing. The first half of the record is composed of imaginative covers like the trippy as hell “Broken Whiskey Glass,” originally recorded by Post Malone, and a spacey groove jam interpretation of the Red Rider classic “Lunatic Fringe.” The band also cranked out some more obscure jams like their hauntingly ethereal take on Tones on Tail’s “Broken Skies” and the aggressively garbled Death Grips cover “Why A Bitch Gotta Lie.” The highlight for me is the infectiously catchy reinterpretation of The Beatles deep cut “Mean Mr. Mustard.” Clocking in at under a minute and a half, this banger is a lesser-known track off of Abbey Road (Apple) which John Lennon once described as “a bit of crap I wrote in India.” Four Stroke Baron managed to turn this crap into gold, producing a stand-out track that buzzes with energy and originality.
The second half of the EP is a selection of re-recorded tracks from the band’s debut album King Radio. Given the bands’ underground status, these tracks will likely be a new experience for many listeners so keep in mind that this a unique melding of older material that combines the bands’ experimental roots with their signature present-day sound. There are plenty of little treats peppered throughout the albums second half, including tasty guitar solos (“Lowly Argument”) and interwoven piano interludes (“Sleep Flood” and “A Sound of Thunder”), while the masterful drum work of Matt Vallarino really shines through on each of these original tracks (with the exception of the curious yet on-brand interlude “Gone”).
Four Stroke Baron is not afraid to be different. From the musical direction, to cover song choices, right down to the band’s name. While this EP may be a little overwhelming for listeners unfamiliar with their style, it lays a solid foundation for an incredibly promising future.
Monoqueen drops on September 25th on Prosthetic Records. Buy it here:
8 / 10