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Ape Shifter — Monkey Business
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-05-24

Monkey Business Cover art

On their third album, Ape Shifter fires off another salvo of high-energy riffs and industrial-strength rock. This is instrumental music, heavy on the guitar, that is informed by mid-70s hard rock, late-70s punk, and touches of classic fusion — a combination which, perhaps inevitably, comes off as a sophisticated evolution from thrash-metal. Jeff Aug is at the helm, with versatile technique that effortlessly tosses off tricky riffs, dextrous solos, and tasty chords, but never seems to be showing off. He reminds me of an experienced sideman whose presence elevates the band he’s been hired into but never hogs the spotlight. And here he’s been handed the chance to show what he’s got without the pesky lead singer prancing for the cameras and groupies. He’s a skillful soloist, but what really makes this music work is his excellent rhythm playing — that and the compositions. Bassist Florian Walter fills the low end just right to make the riffs click, and occasionally tosses off an impressive fill. He has a way of keeping things going during the guitar solos that makes up for the lack of a second guitar (barring very spare overdubs). Kurty Münch is the drummer kicking all of this into gear, never veering into tricky cross-rhythms that would be out of place. I also really appreciate the fact that the songs are all concise statements — killer riff with variations, short solo, riff recap, and out. One track comes in just under seven minutes, but most run from two to four minutes. At times, Ape Shifter makes me think of an instrumental version of a solid 70s rock band like Thin Lizzy. Monkey Business is testimony to the fact that rock music isn’t all about the lyrics and the singers, and it’s just plain fun listening.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Ape Shifter, Jeff Aug

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