Wall of Funk: Vital Hiatus
This Madison trio is less about funk than bluesy hard rock topped with vocals that are slurred, growled and screamed.
So why call the band Wall of Funk? The album's liner notes explain the band's intent: It's a symbol of their existence, "what ties everyone and everything together. It can be built up or torn down."
The songs' narratives seem to favor tearing down. "Skank Rock" and "Bat in Your Face" blend blistering electric guitar, screamo and lyrical imagery that's disturbing and gratuitous: "'Cause all I want to do is take this funky bat and beat your faces in smash on smash."
Wall of Funk's members show promise when they tone down their aggression. The guitar improvisation on "Wandering Out" provides a dreamy, psychedelic feel. The acoustic riff that opens "Hiatus" builds into a slow groove that takes flight with a skillful wail of electric guitar.
But the album's frequent hostility undercuts a clear artistic purpose, casting darkness that leaves the bright spots dim.
Reviewing the Neighbors: "Vital Hiatus" by Wall of Funk
At first glance, I didn’t know what to expect from Wall of Funk's record Vital Hiatus. The brightly colored album cover looked like a depiction of a post-apocalyptic city with the title scrawled across the front like graffiti. To further confuse me, I wasn’t exactly sure if I had ever listened to any band that specialized in "funk metal," or if I even knew what the term "vital hiatus" meant.
First things first, though: How did this trio of young guys decide to combine funk and metal? Lead vocalist Joe Marsden was kind enough to answer a few questions. "Well, we all have a fairly diverse musical background, especially what we've all listened to," said Marsden.
"However, as the band Wall of Funk we tend to focus on the heavy elements of metal music and the weird groovy elements of funk music.”
Marsden was also kind enough to clarify what Wall of Funk meant by the term “Vital Hiatus” and why they chose the name for their first full-length release. Marsden emphasized the literal meaning behind the title. "We use the nameVital Hiatus as a very literal reference to the necessity of a break from the bullshit in life,” he explained. “Whether that's something like your neighbors’ dog that won't shut up at night when you're trying to sleep, or ‘the man’ with an agenda so huge it's out of anyone's control, the scale you relate to that necessary break is entirely up to you. The idea behind the album is that no matter how dark the world can seem, there are still the bright spots that shine through.”
Vital Hiatus is Wall of Funk’s first full-length CD and also their first with drummer Cal Lamore, who has played with Wall of Funk for over a year. Lamore's drumming blends almost seamlessly with the guitar and vocals from Marsden and bassist Lennon Baker. The 18-month process of creating this album gives Vital Hiatus cohesion and polish that can be difficult to achieve with a newer band, not to mention with a fresh addition to the lineup. "Interlude," an instrumental, well, interlude, and the mostly instrumental "Hiatus" showcases Wall of Funk's technical mastering of their instruments, as well as proving they can still engage the audience even if they lower the tempo. I found myself more partial to these slightly slower, more funk-inspired songs like "Mirage" and "Wandering Out." However, "Skank Rock" and "Bat in your Face," which have more of an obvious nod to metal, are highly energetic.
"Our first CD, an EP really, titled 'Hot Insight' was recorded over two years ago and created, recorded, and produced over a six month period,” said Marsden. “It was done by myself and a friend from school while I was attending Madison Media Institute. We didn't yet have a drummer for the band so I did the drums myself, and needless to say, I was still learning how to record a quality album."
Vital Hiatus is an interesting album worth checking out, but don't pass up a chance to see Wall of Funk live, especially if you like to headbang or shake your butt at a concert. As Marsden explained via email, their metal-funk infusion enables their fans to really move around at a concert. "Our goal with our music is to not only have people feel and think about our recorded songs, but to come out to shows and have a killer time with everyone else there banging their heads and shaking their asses at the same time (it looks goofy at first until you get the hang of it!)," said Marsden.