What’s that in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No….it’s Blackburn’s finest musical export, Bastard Of The Skies, back for the attack after 2010’s rather exceptional Ichor! Ichor! and in full-on fine fighting fettle. Scorching, paint-peeling guitars, seismic bass, pounding drummage and vein-poppingly livid yelling are still very much the order of the day it’s just that this time the band has tightened the screw somewhat, ratcheted up the tension and battened down the hatches in order to give us the very best Bastard Of The Skies they can be. Refined Bastards.
Imagine, if you will, prime Neurosis at their most seethingly aggressive, add a heapin’ helpin’ of discordant noise-rock via a very pissed-off early Melvins, turn up the heat, crank up the tempo slightly, and then you’ll have something akin to the basic BOTS musical template. Restrained rather than expansive, claustrophobic rather than vast, these Bastards have taken the epic scope and turned it inward upon themselves to create ten terse ejaculations of sheer diamond-hard anger, molten loathing and outright disgust.
Emerging suddenly from a distant swirling fog of feedback into tight-as-a-noose discord, ‘Drug Monarch’ is a blistering rabbit-punch to the back of the neck. The tumbling, tightly-controlled drums of Matt Aldred keep things moving as the guitars of Rob Beesley and mainman Matt Richardson lock together, switching between scything cyclical discord and razor-sharp muted chugging as Richardson screams throat-shredding blue murder atop the whole shebang.
The first high-point of Tarnation comes early with second track, the fittingly-titled ‘Punch In The Fucking Lungs’. Hewn from the same cloth as much of Ministry’s criminally under-appreciated Filth Pig album, the track bursts in with violent discord before seceding into subdued menace with Richardson wearily delivering verses in a low clear voice right next to the microphone before kicking back start-stop dynamics and throaty screaming once more. Were I a record executive-type, I’d be saying “THAT’S the single!” and rubbing my hands with glee.
Following things up with another strong track, the slow-burning, seething, Ghostbusters-referencing ‘(Roasted In The Depths Of The) Sloar’, the Bastards proceed to unleash lumbering monster after lumbering monster upon our tender ears – from ‘Bastard Sabbath’ through ‘Repugnance’ to ‘Bookatee Willalee’, ‘Locklear’ and the driving, percussive ‘Snapmare’ – letting up only to deliver the twilight hissing boiler-room ambience of title-track ‘Tarnation’, a track that ought to allow us a chance to breathe but merely succeeds in amping up the sense of menace that surrounds the album as a whole, and also functions to showcase bassist Claire Horrocks’ seriously low-end tone.
Closing Tarnation is the charmingly-named seething dirge ‘What Are You Looking At Dicknose?’, a minefield of barely-suppressed aggression in which the Bastards are aided and abetted by the diseased vocal styling’s of Kevin Hare and the commanding tones of Drum Major Russell MacEwan, both of Scottish fellow bastards Black Sun, to great, unpleasant, effect.
Mention must be made of Richardson’s absolutely top-notch production job, aided by the much-in-demand mastering skills of James Plotkin, breathing life into every nook and cranny of Tarnation and going some way toward establishing the bludgeoning-yet-organic tone and aesthetic of the bands overall sound. Clearly Richardson is a true sonic craftsman.
After hearing Tarnation in its entirety, and putting it into context after its predecessor, I am left with one overriding thought – that if Bastard Of The Skies were from the US, or even any other country outside of the UK, people would be swarming all over them. One can only hope that this release will see Bastard Of The Skies take their rightful place in the firmament as one of the premier bands within the world of genuinely heavy music.
As far as heaviness and impact are concerned, Bastard Of The Skies are Godzilla and the listener is Tokyo.[audio:https://dl.dropbox.com/u/43655858/Bastard-of-the-Skies-A-Punch-In-The-Fucking-Lungs.mp3|titles=Bastard Of The Skies – A Punch In The Fucking Lungs|width=95%]
Scribed by: Paul Robertson