Reviews Zone

Darko:Bonsai Mammoth (Lockjaw Records (UK)/Bird Attack (US)/Torch of Hope (Japan) 3rd February

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


It kicks off melodically and grabs the attention from the off with the commercial cut “Life Forms.” Then the lead vocal slaps you round the chops, with a vocal cord destroying scream interspersed with audible lyric and a very decent vocal.  This stuff is not usually my cup of tea, but there’s something about this lot and this album that would not allow me to forget about this record. To be totally honest, and yes; a journalist is capable of that……….

I dished this album out with a bunch of others to one of the magazine’s contributors and she gave it a few spins and started to write her review, but in the end she waved the white flag as for her there wasn’t much to be positive about. I could have left it there and dropped coverage altogether, but that would not be fair. So I gave it another listen and here we are……

They sound American, but are in fact from Guildford, Surrey in the UK. Described as “UK skate punks,” that billing perhaps a tad misleading. Are they punk? Skater boys they do not seem, in the true sense of that genre’s usual suspects.

It is full of attitude, energy and power. The lead singer Dan Smith has some pipes on him, and switches up the musical singing style with the belching, rabid screeching he does very well. It works and adds huge intensity and an urgency to the feel of the record. I think he is a real find for this kind of stuff.

The band are on it musically. Clearly all competent musicians. The material is a fairly even listen. It is not re-inventing the wheel musically, in the writing or the style. But the performance is powerful and demands you fucking well listen, even if this is not gonna be your thing. You never know, it just might be if my reaction is a barometer.

It reminded me; there was a band who blew the frigging roof off a venue where I was on the judging panel of a big ‘battle of the bands’ competition a few years go. The rest of the panel didn’t vote for them to win. I did and stood my ground. Again, was not my usual taste, but they were so ballsy and really went for it.

They were so up for it and so good at what they did, the rest of the acts on the line-up were piss poor in comparison. After sitting with my arms folded and refusing to budge on my vote in the judging room, I got my way and the rest agreed that this band were the victors. That unsigned and unknown band were called Enemo-J and have gone on to gain global recognition and release at least five critical acclaimed and commercially successful albums. Darko remind me a bit of that band. So much infectious spirit, channelled aggression and conviction. Not chasing trends or giving a shit about who else is out there doing this kind of stuff.  

11 band-penned tracks, but one cut, “The Chernobyl Effect,” is a 35 second sparse instrumental interlude. The other 10 are all pretty much fired at you at 100 MPH, but even so it is all in yer grill, there is still light and shade to my ears. Could be a bit more with a couple of more laid back cuts, but…………..

Karl Sursham on bass and drummer Andy Borg pin it all down splendidly at the back. Concrete foundations do not get much more rock solid than this. The twin lead guitars of Rob Piper and Chris Brown lock together seamlessly, and never get in each other’s way. No one trying to outplay the other or steal the spotlight. It’s pretty cool to hear and there’s no showboating for solos. In fact, this is more brush strokes and layer upon layer of guitar licks, where control and tone is of equal importance. The record is not heavy on solos, and all the better for it. It is all about a band sound, a unit, a chemistry and that is palpable.  It also sounds like they love what they do and are having a ball.

Track five, “I Knew I Should Have Taken That Left Turn At….”showcases the weaving of the guitars within the tapestry of the track, really nails a groove and leans towards a 70’s prog’ rock vibe. The  twin guitars of “Hiraeth”, as on other tracks on the record, give teenie weenie nods to the likes of Lizzy and Wishbone Ash, but with a much more kick- in-the balls edge and a modern twist. The closer, “We Can Stand For Something More”,” is a good choice to end proceedings on a high.

The band worked with producer Daly George (Creeper, Milk Teeth, Giants), who helped them navigate through their new approach to song-writing and to experiment with new sounds and ideas. The final touches were provided in the mastering process by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (Iron Reagan, Poison Idea, Stranger Things). With musical salutes to riff-thrashers like Protest The Hero, straight-up skate punk legends Strung Out and the melodic hard-core of Comeback Kid, they have apparently taken a step back from the narrative weaved through earlier EPs – not heard ‘em – to focus inwardly on more personal subject matter.

I can see this album appealing to a wide audience, from metal, rock  and punk fans to all sorts.  This lot sound like they could easily grace the Bloodstock, Download and Wacken Open Air stages, pull a decent crowd and hold ‘em. Getting a full release in the UK and over in America, I predict they will do very well across the pond with this debut offering, and will be very welcome for tours and festivals over there. Here; yeah, of course.  

If you can imagine Rage Against The Machine in a bare knuckle fist fight with Korn and Slipknot,  Darko would fight the winner and beat ‘em, then help them to their feet , go get pissed together and become best buddies. It’s their round……

By Simon Redley



DARKO on tour:

03/02/2017 – Guildford, The Star

18/02/2017 – Nuremberg, Desi Nürnberg

17/03/2017 – Portsmouth, The Birdcage

18/03/2017 – Manchester, Retro Bar

14/04/2017 – London, New Cross Inn (Dugstock)

16/04/2017 – Hastings, The Tub

07/07/2017 – Novi Sad, EXIT Festival 



1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’


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