Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
The Budos Band have spent the last 15 years slowly-but-surely adding elements of proto-metal to their groove-drenched instrumental Afrobeat. 2014’s Burnt Offering feels like a confession of sorts, the band copping to their stoned-teenager proclivities by giving the album a grim title, artwork depicting a bearded wizard, and songs that sound like Fela Kuti jamming with Black Sabbath. It is awesome.
Now we have The Budos Band V, which stands as both an aesthetic refutation of Burnt Offering and a refinement of everything it did well. Like every Budos album before Burnt Offering, it’s numerically titled, and its tasteful cover depicts a distant mountain. At the same time, it’s obvious from the first bars of opener “Old Engine Oil” (shout-out to Harviestoun Brewery) that the band will be doubling down on the hard rock riffage. While the guitar menaces and churns, the bass and drums lock into the Ethiopian rhythms that were the band’s bread and butter in their early days.
The brass glides above it all, saxophone and trumpet commanding the spotlight whether working together to hammer down a musical theme or going rogue and spraying out wild notes. They provide the pyrotechnics while the rest of the band build reliably infectious grooves. The balance they’ve perfected with years and repetition is evident. “Veil of Shadows” is the album’s highlight, a tightly wound funk metal masterstroke. The guitar introduces the main riff, accompanied at first only by droning organ. The drums shuffle in next, and trumpet and sax soon splash in some color. But the real stroke of genius comes at the 2:30 mark, when the organ takes over the lead melody, and the rest of the band sound like they’re cheering it on. The brass takes the song over the finish line, but that moment defines the Budos Band at its best: nine instruments working together to create something greater than the sum of their parts—in whatever shape that may take.