Amsterdam-based KONG has been one of my favourite bands for over twenty years. I remember coming across a half-page story about the band in an issue of Metal Forces like it was yesterday, except it was 1990. The piece was promoting this oddball Dutch instrumental band and their debut album, Mute Poet Vocalizer, claiming it cherry picked influences from the worlds of metal, progressive rock, industrial and electronica. The list of influences/comparisons fired off Voivod, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Godflesh, amongst others (this was long before this sort of mish-mash was commonplace and metal heads even admitted listening to Floyd or Crimson) and were played by a quartet of dudes who, when they performed live, did so on four separate platforms located at strategic points throughout the venue and made use of a quadraphonic PA system (below, the unobscured image from above, plus another and an old video to give you an idea what this glorious mess looks like).
As well, the band also included their soundman and lights operator as vital pieces of their puzzle, going so far as to include them in the band’s first promo shot. This, to me, meant something out of the ordinary was going on and being a weird kid who liked weird and heavy music, said copy of Metal Forces had barely hit the coffee table before I was out the door and halfway down to my local kick ass record store. Unbelievably, the shop had ordered in one copy of Mute Poet Vocalizer on import from Peaceville Records and I quickly shelled out for it. So began a love affair with Kong that has recently entered its third decade and spanned six full-lengths, a remix album, a rarities/best of disc, a handful of interviews for various publications and even advance demo cassettes which bassist Mark Drillich would send me, likely to shut me up. I even endured that weird spell from 2002-2007 where they disbanded; a dark period in the band’s history that was probably designed to specifically piss me off more than anything else.
A couple months ago, I received an email from the KONGpound that included a snippet of a new song along with some visual accompaniment. The song’s called “Steam Truckin’” and the video is basically a camera held by a cyclist/band member as they tear through downtown Amsterdam with the footage sped up in post-production. And while the little slice of new material on display does come across as somewhat streamlined, I’m digging it. Either way, a KONG album is always a brilliant pastiche of sounds, moods, dynamics and varying degrees of metallic inspired noise. I always expect an all-encompassing listening experience, have never been disappointed and am not expecting to be this time around.
The new album is being recorded, as usual, by the band themselves in the studio they own and operate in Amsterdam, though word has it that its creation has been delayed after drummer Mandy Hopman was laid up following a sailing accident in which she was bonked on the head by a falling mast and suffered a serious concussion. i’m not sure if this video was shot before or after the incident, but here she is in all her pocketed, grooving glory recording new drum tracks.
Granted, KONG isn’t a band that’s ever been concerned about genre purity and because of that, they continue to be a difficult sell to the various genres and sub-genres you’d think they would slot into rather smoothly. However, it must be noted they will be performing at Roadburn in April as special guests of the day/night Voivod is curating.
And even if none of you motherfuckers gives a flying fuck about this band, I do and am thusly declaring this particular holiday season the best ever. Minus Ms. Hopman’s brain injury.