Any band name that references H.P. Lovecraft gets instant Kudos from me. So when they’re not chasing Randolph Carter, guarding Ngranek, or being used as steeds by ghouls, Night Gaunts are making an incredibly infectious concoction of hip-hop, punk and ska. Hailing from Auckland in New Zealand, the band is the project of Paul and Hayden, guitarist and bassist of Dead End Job, whose scorching crack rock steady may be familiar to those of you who downloaded the Global Unity Musik compilation from Riot Ska Records.
Since forming in 2010, the Night Gaunts have released a free demo (Full Body Tourettes [Pt I]) and a free full length album (Full Body Tourettes [Pt II]) that features re-recorded versions of both songs on the demo. It’s a brave and admirable step for any band to release their music for free so if you feel like showing your support and digging into those pockets, they do accept donations on their bandcamp page. Both releases are spiritual successors to the crack rock steady established by Dead End Job and introduce a greater array of sounds using synthesizers alongside the hectic upstrokes and angry distortion. Perhaps the biggest difference however is the strong influence hip-hop has had on the Night Gaunts music, seeing the duo deliver quick fire rhymes and cram each song to the brim with lyrical content. I have admired this fusion of ska and rap in a previous post dedicated to The Mad Conductor, but it is worth stating again that this band are an absolute must for fans of T-Alan, Mouthwash, The King Blues and Sonic Boom Six. The vocals themselves are, at times, the choked, half retching scream so characteristic of Stza Crack and his contemporaries, though more often than not they remain clean and clear; albeit with a slight Johnstones twang (minus the arrogance and conceit). ‘Vicious Viles’ is an exciting and furious introduction to Full Body Tourettes [Pt II] while ‘Lo Fi, One Mic’ and the brassy ‘Top Hat Killers’ quickly establish the Night Gaunts’ original sound; with infectious rhythms hoisted high on the keyboards and lyrics flying thick and fast.
While these songs are early highlights, the final 3 tracks are undoubtedly the most impressive on the album. Indeed, if they give any hint of what to expect from the Night Gaunts in the future, the duo are certainly worth keeping a very close eye on. Roughly halfway through, and out of nowhere, ‘Ninja-Like-Bandanas’ becomes epic, with potent guitar and keyboard harmonies, empowering choruses of “Don’t give up, open your eyes; you’ve only got one chance to live this life” and a delightful melodica solo which carries the rest of the song aloft into its concluding crescendo. ‘Space To Vacuum’ slows to a reflective pace, questioning our true capacity to “break the rules that man has made” whilst smooth organ chords flutter on the offbeat, before flowing seamlessly into the paranoid ‘They'll Kill Us All...’. This final track is a welcome and triumphant return to the more hardcore sound the Night Gaunts gave us at the beginning of the album in ‘Vicious Viles’, and is executed perfectly.
Unfortunately, according to H.P. Lovecraft, Night Gaunts dislike flying over bodies of water, but I really do hope that one way or another Paul and Hayden manage to stretch a tour or two beyond New Zealand.