Even with pop acts straddling ever so many styles, sometimes within the course of one song, it’s easy to imagine the iTunes “genre” column drawing a blank over 24-7 Spyz’s “Home.” The track opens with gently played guitar notes, which abruptly stop before being overtaken by pummeling, metal-dungeon drums and guitars. Just when your ears have adjusted, the tempo slows down and you find yourself in the midst of an R&B ballad, with the singer crooning about praying “for the strength to go on.” With four more minutes to go, you’re probably thinking, “What kind of song is this?”
For more than three decades, 24-7 Spyz have specialized in inspiring that question. Emerging from the genre-smashing Black Rock Coalition movement of the Eighties, they were part of a crusade that included Living Colour, Bad Brains and Fishbone. More than most of their peers, 24-7 Spyz toyed with the idea of “black rock” from the start, blending in funk, hardcore, reggae and pop. That adventurousness continues on The Soundtrack to the Innermost Galaxy, their first album in 13 years.
Of the band’s original lineup, only singer-guitarist Jimi Hazel and bassist Rick Skatore remain, but their sound remains largely unchanged. Easily the new album’s most ambitious track, “Home” was inspired by a series of devastating losses in Hazel’s life: “I will see you up in heaven/But till then/Day becomes night/And there’s no peace I find,” he sings.
In keeping with that atmosphere, the music alternates between comforting (a string section) and cathartic (alternating shredding solos by Hazel and the band’s other guitarist, Ronny Drayton, which seem pained in and of themselves). By the time “Home” ends, just after passing the eight-minute mark, you’ll have no idea what to call it. A rhythm & mosh symphony? Whatever it is, it’s a musical ride that keeps on giving something new.