Posts Tagged ‘Amphetamine Reptile’

Cruel Nature Records – 19th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I love living in York because of The Fulford Arms, and the ease of access to limitless gigs in Leeds (without having to actually live in Leeds), I’m starting to think that Newcastle is the place to be.

Cruel Nature’s roster is reason alone, and this latest offering from full-throttle noisemakers Ballpeen is exemplary. Three years on from their first live show and, the band have established themselves, ‘through releases on premier DIY punk label, Serial Bowl Records’. As the press release recounts, ‘2018’s ‘Loose Knot’ with its wry nod to Black Flag in title and excellent artwork, rapped five across the listener’s brow from the get-go, with its attention-grabbing power and undulating groove, coursing through the 6 tracks, leaving you thirsty – but not miserable – for more’.

In attempting to capture the energy of their live performances, Pachinko is a relentlessly balls-out, up front amalgamation of all things post-hardcore, with a big, bold 90s slant that evokes the spirit of Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile, as well as contemporaneous little UK labels like Eve Recordings and Jackass.

At times, it feels like we’re wading through endless indie sameness, and even so much alternative music, spanning metal, hardcore, post-hardcore and whatever else you’ve got simply fails to hit the spot, and I’ve felt listless, uninspired many evenings while reviewing these last few weeks. And then Pachinko slams in with a proper smack to the chops and I’m instantly reinvigorated and reminded of all of the reasons for music. Pachinko is distilled excitement. The album’s eight tracks are packed back-to-back and are all the guitars, spasmodic, jolting, big distortion. The fact it’s a mere twenty-one minutes in duration indicates the density and hell-for-leather pace of the album, which last less time than it takes some bands to tune up, or in the case of Sunn O))), to strike the first chord.

Pachinko isn’t pretty: it’s direct, and drives straight for the jugular. Following the lurching drive of ‘One Man’s Opinion’, a thorny mess of Killing Joke and early Therapy? with a dash of Milk, ‘Flipper’ brings a downtuned churning riff assault, before ‘Ornate Coleman’ slugs out a messy morass of guitar-driven abrasion.

Blending Trail of Dead and Blacklisters at their most attacking, or to pluck lesser-known but perhaps more accurate reference points, Tar, Guzzard, and Hora Douse all spin into Ballpeen’s sonic blast.

‘Kancho’ goes full-on Bleach era Nirvana with a driving, circular riff and sprays of feedback bursting from the halts in the crushing percussion. It’s heavy in a relentless, churning way. Some songs, like the closer, ‘No Mark’ are straight-ahead hardcore punishers that are Black Flag and all the hardcore releases Southern Lord have released in the last five years rolled together and deep-fried in breadcrumbs that stick in the throat simply to choke you.

No prisoners. No respite. Just full-on fury. The best.

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Southern Lord – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been five years since Wreck appeared on Alternative Tentacles. So what have Unsane been doing in the intervening period? Gazing at their navels, taking up yoga and discovering a serene spirituality as a means of dealing with the anguish of life in the modern world? As if. They’ve been distilling their brutal rage into even more intensely bleak slabs of sonic nihilism. And, naturally, it’s housed in appropriately unsubtle, gore-soaked artwork. Unsane’s album covers are nothing if not distinct: while so many metal album covers which display hematomaniac tendencies are highly stylised and revel in the intended shock value, Unsane’s covers are all the more shocking by view of their clinicality, resembling crime scene photos than works of art. This is in many ways true of the music itself: there’s a functionality, a bluntness about it, and no sense of there being any indulgence or show.

Everything about Sterilize is stark, uncompromising, and connotes post-industrial, post-everything society, the dehumanising effects of merely trying to exist in the capitalist world where everyone gets pushed further and further down for the benefit of the few. It’s the soundtrack to life being sucked from the soul, the sonic encapsulation of desolate fury.

The grey steel assault of ‘Factory’ sets the tone and tempo: screeching feedback whistles through the grey, grain of the guitars and sludgy bass. From thereon in, the ferocious howls of anguish and packed in tight, back-to-back.

The song titles are also functional, direct, descriptive. Again, there’s no fluff, and little joy, to be found around ‘We’re Fucked’, ‘A Slow Reaction’ or ‘Distance’. Everything is paired back to the bare essentials and compacted for maximum impact. This includes the blues-based sound that defines Unsane: it’s crunched up, compressed, stomped into submission, meaning that while there is a certain swing to it, it’s limited to the most concise and precise form.

‘The Grind’ is aptly titled and brings a thunderous deluge of guitar; ‘Aberration’ is built around a simple four-chord trudge; and ‘No Reprieve’ sums up the album as a whole. You don’t listen to Unsane for variety, either across a given album, or their output overall. You listen to Unsane to vent, to experience a relentless viscerality. There’s something almost self-flagellatory about listening to an Unsane album in its entirety. At a certain point, the initial sense of catharsis is replaced by a crushing claustrophobia. This isn’t to say it’s an unpleasant experience, but is indicative of the effect of such sustained intensity. It’s as exhausting, mentally and physically, as the exertions of daily life on the treadmill, a punishment as reward.

When they slow the pace a shade, the weight is turned up, and when they hit a groove, it’s explosive and blistering. The tripwire guitar that stretches its sinews over the sludgy trudge of ‘Lung’ only raises the tension, and closer ‘Avail’ draws a heavy curtain of screaming anguish on proceedings with distorted vocals tearing across a rumbling bassline and savage guitars.

There’s a desperation and urgency about Sterilize which ensures that it crackles from beginning to end. Everything seethes, spits and scrapes and there’s not a moment’s relief. It’s this intensity which makes Sterilize as strong as any Unsane release. It’s mercilessly harrowing, but is ultimately satisfying in a perverse, sadistic sense.

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