Mal Hijo are a 5 piece prog band formed in Liverpool in 2017, having met through their music course at university. The lineup consists of Mike Blue (vocals, rhythm guitar), Billy Price (lead guitar), Jacob Hackett (drums), Tyler Swindley (bass) and the recent addition of Tristan Apperley (synth/keys). They began crafting their debut album ‘Superstar Crematorium’ in 2018 and are now preparing to release their first single, ‘Mal Hijo’, which marks their first official release of original music. What is most remarkable about not only this single but the entire album, is the fact that it has been wholly recorded in the flats and bedrooms of the band members due to a lack of funds to go into the studio. It takes real passion and drive to take on such a gruelling task of playing, recording and mixing the album independently. However, their efforts have certainly paid off on ‘Mal Hijo’ which leans towards the heavier side of prog.
Mal Hijo have bravely set the bar high for their debut album, deciding to jump straight into the world of prog with a concept album split into 2 acts (this is what we like to hear!). The concept revolves around the central character of Fenix who exists in two different musical points in time; in act 1 he exists in the late 70’s/early 80’s whereas in act 2 he exists in the modern day. Without giving too much more away about the concept, ‘Mal Hijo’ – which features on act 2 – tells of how he is noticed for not fitting in with modern times and therefore being rejected for his musical style. Having listened to the new single, I will be very interested to see how this part of the jigsaw fits in with the rest of the concept.
It is no surprise then that, musically, ‘Mal Hijo’ adds to the heaviness of this concept by communicating Fenix’s supposed feelings of isolation, rejection and the inner turmoil of his own musicianship. The song takes no prisoners; it is constantly driving, fast paced and there is an abundance of musical ideas in just 5 minutes – so be prepared! The first half of the song has a clear 70s heavy rock feel reminding me of bands such as Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin. There is the main guitar riff, which itself is a rapid, note heavy beast that kicks off the song straight away before introducing the verse. Often this riff is treated to a twin guitar harmony which is always a guaranteed way to elevate the original sound of the riff – plus it sounds awesome! The chorus is infectious and you will end up singing it for the rest of the day so beware! I love how well Hackett’s backing vocals mingle with Blue’s main vocal line in the chorus; they have a similar vocal style that blends very well. The second half of the song is where it becomes more proggy as we dive into an instrumental section (which features a very cheeky excerpt from Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’). I particularly admire Hackett’s drumming in the transition that begins the instrumental section; it is extremely tight yet stylistic, successfully guiding the rest of the band towards the next musical idea. The 3 minute mark then provides the listener with some brief respite from the chaos that encapsulates the rest of the song, as a strumming acoustic guitar underscores some gentle vocal harmonies. This doesn’t last however; a euphoric ascending figure lifts the song back to the verse chord progression in which Price demonstrates his talent for the guitar with a raging solo, similar in style to the likes of John Petrucci (sweep picking and all). One final chorus and an incredibly high pitched ascending vocal figure ends this rollercoaster ride of a song.
For a song that has been played, recorded and mixed in flats and bedroom spaces, the sound quality on this is excellent, a real testament to the production expertise of Apperley. This is an energised track that shows a lot of promise for what the rest of the record will eventually sound like – and if it sounds like this then these clever musicians are onto a winner. I am very excited to hear the concept in its entirety and hearing this amazing track again in its context.
Available to stream on all major streaming platforms from the 21st April.
Written by Prog Rock Review writer Dominic Sanderson