Sendwood was born in 2016 out of a decision by Kriss Wood (ex-The Real McCoy) and Alex McWood (Drums: Harmonic Generator) to reduce their existing band down to a two piece, consisting of just drums and guitar. They held a firm belief that additional musicians were superfluous and they didn’t need a bass player to achieve big sounds anyway!
Before this new release Sendwood had out put out the Log Face e.p. in 2017 and kept live shows to an absolute minimum. Considering their fairly brief and elusive existence, expectations for their first full length album are built almost exclusively on the account given by Kriss and Alex; that these songs are about heartbreaks, the loss of someone dear, the need to break the rules and the fight for freedom.
Fist Leaf kicks off with the first of three instrumental tunes that punctuate the beginning, middle and end of the record. They all go by the name of Riffocephalus and are short, powerful pieces that are included to keep the listeners heads banging. The angular guitar and jabbing drums sets up a post-hardcore tone from the start, but the surprising appearance of a bluesy harmonica part gives us an early clue that Sendwood are an idiosyncratic band with a few curve balls up their sleeve.
A quick snap on the snare drum and the album accelerates into a punky rocker called Demon. The guitars are set to fuzz and there’s an immediate pre-millenium sound that emerges on this second track. I can hear echoes of Kerbdog or Jawbox here, all delivered with an appealing energy that affirms the in-and-out two day session in which this entire album was recorded.
By the time we reach the third song the two men involved are already raging with all the power and ferocity of a much larger band. There is a confidence at play here. The drumming is sharp and driving. The arrangements take the listener from one riff to another without dwelling unnecessarily and they make it all sound like so much FUN! The guitars buzz-saw like King for a Day-era Faith No More but there’s also a re-occurring lilt that reminds me of the music Dischord were putting out in the nineties. If you liked bands like Bluetip, you are going to find a lot to enjoy here. You’ll also, no doubt, be singing along with the woah oh’s and woo hoos on Leash, which manages to set an enthusiastic sing along to some skull cracking angst.
If you haven’t found a reason to make an ascending adjustment to the volume control by now, then the spidery riff that gives way to a steady chug on Gotham may just prove irresistible. It’s an exuberant bounce-along that places itself at the centre of the album. My sincere hope is that Batman would crank this on repeat in the Batmobile while he tears around the streets of the city this tune is named after. It is best played LOUD.
A brief, sludgy half time smash through the second Riffocephalus track ushers in a charge through a pair of angry, punked up headbangers. Penny has a riff that would make Helmet proud while Gun roars out an anti violence message, “I understand you want a gun … I can’t get that will to destroy everything.”
Then we have the penultimate track on the album: Ber. It’s a stomping push that acts as a completely suitable soundtrack to a song about rampaging Vikings. Whether it was meant intentionally or not, the verses make a great metaphor for overcoming adversity; “The army facing us is not enough to take us down.” It crescendos to a triumphant sing along before the album closes with the final Riffocephalus and a heaving beast of a riff to play us out.
Fist Leaf is over and done in just 26 minutes, but that does not mean it isn’t a satisfying listen. Sendwood have just done an excellent job of distilling their music down to the most important elements and it works extremely well… Just like they said, “Who needs a bass player anyway!”
1. Riffocephalus minus
6. Riffocephalus Medius
10. Riffocephalus Rex
Kriss Wood – Guitar
Alex McWood – Drums