Formed in 2008 from the ashes of local bands the Russians and Cicadas, the Seattle trio of Noah Burns (drums), Josh Holland (guitars) and Jeff Johnson (bass) combined to create high tension music that fuses together elements of punk, prog and laser-focused jams to create an experimental sound not unlike South Youth covering Black Sabbath.
Following on from the release of their 2010 ‘Boss Rhino’ EP comes the three track ‘Brass Tactics’. Like their first outing this is a demented, short, sharp shock to the system.
‘Battle Toads’ starts things off sounding like the punk influenced early NWOBHM, but such simple comparisons ends there as it mutates into a deranged, shrieking rollercoaster of a track awash with distorted vocals and angular sounds.
On first listen, it could be mistaken for a crazy mess – the whole thing teeters on the brink of falling apart, yet somehow doesn’t, as the furious playing careers left and right, stopping on a dime and then galloping away. Whilst no slight to the other two musicians Noah’s drumming drives the whole thing along with it’s off-kilter fills and frenetic playing.
‘Battle Snake’ follows on with more of the same relentless paced attack; the guitars stopping and starting the various work outs like an ADHD afflicted kid on Sunny D, including some blistering fret work that vie with the drums for ‘maddest performance’. In spite of these elements there are plenty of hidden or at least disguised grooves. As it grows, these become more apparent along with the wailing vocals that had, until this point, taken a back seat. Compared to the opening moments, the track ends memorably almost as if they were defying you to reach the pay off.
Finally ‘Battle 07’ is ushered in with a hymn-like start, all organ and echoing vocals until a clanking doom like riffing emerges to augment the haunting refrain.
Given that the EP flashes by in an adrenaline jacked rush, until this point it is a sombre moment to reflect on the elements that have gone before and you realise that there is a great voice buried behind the distortion and the simplistic fading track makes you appreciate the energy and complexity of the first two tracks and shows a band able to do simple as well as crazed complexity.
If I have one criticism, it is that the production could be much improved – maybe the lo-fi sound was deliberate, but it is a shame to lose the quality and technicality because it all sounds a little muffled. That being said, the EP makes it’s impact well enough as it is and promises much from a band with tremendous energy.
It’s not necessarily catchy, but it er, shreds…
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden