Hands Up Who Wants to Die – Nil All

Posted: 9 March 2023 in Albums
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Human Worth – 3rd March 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Irish foursome Hands Up Who Wants to Die feature members of Shifting, No Spill Blood, and Wild Rocket, and – as you’d expect from an album released on Human Worth – it’s heavy. But it’s not just lumpen-headed thumping: there’s a lot to absorb on Nil All – and so much more than noise.

The opening of ‘Clothbound’ is atmospheric, subtle, intriguing. And then the bass slams in like a lump hammer. The guitar, rather than following with any direct riff, creeps around, twisting and turning, while the vocals are those of a strangled gargoyle – ugly, menacing, perturbing.

There’s a fair array of stylistic variation across the album’s eight tracks, and it’s this unusual relationship between the guitar and bass that is most intriguing. ‘0-0’ is a deconstructed jazz semi-spoken word piece where neither bass nor guitar confirm to the time signature of the drumming: Enablers may be a touchstone, but ultimately, this is something unique. The same is true of the low and slow theatrical math-rock of ‘L’inconnue’ that comes on like a dreamed reimagining of Shellac that lumbers its way into a howling psychodrama before slowly falling apart over the course of an eight and a half minutes that will make you feel like your limbs are slowly being separated from our body.

Satre famously wrote in Nausea that ‘hell is other people’ and this messy-sounding gut-churning bass-driven, feedback-strewn behemoth is a worthy soundtrack which corresponds with the urge to purge after too much time among the masses – like the excruciating torture of a trip into town on a weekend or lunchtime. It’s a crushingly heavy dirge, and the guitars nag and gnaw at your skull while the bass kicks you hard in the guts. And then it goes off-kilter and lumbers and lurches all over, and that hellish throb continues into the grainy drone of ‘Hell Is Just More Of What’s Already True’. It may only be a couple of minutes long, but it’s lugubrious as fuck.

‘God’s Favourite’ is like a three-way pileup of Shellac, Pavement, and Her Name is Calla, and these guys seem determined to drag the listener through some dark and difficult places – sonically and emotionally. This, of course, is the selling point for Nil All. It’s an album that rages, raves, groans and sighs as it explores those uncomfortable spaces and challenges the listener in a way that delivers optimal rewards. It channels the pain, anguish, and confusion of being alive and articulates it in a way you didn’t realise was possible.

Signing off with the blasting noise-fest that is ‘Ludger Sylbaris’ – a morass of booming bass and sinewy guitar havoc – Nil All is not overtly uplifting or cathartic. It’s schizophrenic, twisted, dark, unpredictable, deranged. And absolutely fucking top.

AA

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