Hey, does anyone else remember Sulaco, ’cause it’s been a while. If, like me, you thought they were another casualty of the propensity for technically inclined bands to implode after a few short years, then think again mister!
Their last record may have been in 2006 – Tearing Through The Roots, on Willowtip – but it ain’t like mainman Erik Burke hasn’t been busier than a one-armed bassplayer, nuh-uh. Since that last record, Burke has been the guitarist for the reactivated Brutal Truth – a role he has filled with aplomb, verve and a bucketload of pinched harmonics – joined BT bass-behemoth Danny Lilker onstage as lead guitarist for the similarly reformed, but not as prolific, Nuclear Assault, and all the while juggled Sulaco and a variety of other projects. Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about all of that activity!
So here we find ourselves looking at a new Sulaco record, some eight years after their debut Relapse EP of 2003, and let me tell you, it’s good to have ’em back – crazier, tighter, punchier and more punishing than ever.
One of those bands that are hard to pin down, stylistically, to my ears Sulaco err toward the techier end of Noiserock/Noisecore – think, a sharper Deadguy on a progressive bender, or a more brutal take on Drowningman. Sure they have elements of grind and death metal in there, but only fleetingly – very few full-on gravity blasts or cookie monster growls here, only wonky, skronky avant-progressive hardcore-inflected nastiness.
Opening salvo ‘The Approach’ comes in at an angle, keeping things firmly off-kilter but vicious with it, and sets the pattern for the whole record – utterly pummelling double-bass drumming from thunder-machine Chris Golding that just never lets up, a warping latticework of grinding guitar skronk and Burke’s latter day-Luc LeMay yowling vocal laying claim to their territory from the get-go.
The two-man axe-tag-team of Burke and (relative) new boy Brian Mason mesh and fly apart like a finely honed machine, and Lon Hackett performs the unenviable task of grounding things with bass like it really ain’t no thing. These guys just fucking KILL IT.
‘Build And Burn’ itself is a violently propulsive monster, seething with menace, barely suppressed rage, and a killer twin-axe middle eight section, ‘Make A Move’ judders in on a lopsided discordant groove before letting loose all hell with a seriously intense set of riffage that lurches around sickeningly between wooziness and intense drilling, and ‘Dingy Metropolis’ is chock-full of intensely progressive power-moves and chunky guitars. Hell, there’s even the trace of a melody in there, albeit a mangled, twisted one.
Personal standout track ‘It’s Over Johnny’ segues from a Die Kreuzen-esque opening passage, into a series of seriously intense tremolo-picked passage, out into a multi-guitar pile-up of warped notes ,that warps into a drifting harmonised reverie and finally resolves itself back where it started again. A spaghetti junction of music, made doubly visceral by Golding’s one-two punch double-bass punishment. Burke howls himself hoarse over here, coming off as more than a little reminiscent of Playing Enemy’s Demian Johnston, which is high praise indeed.
The guitar pile-up continues through into, and finds its zenith in, ‘Corridor’, an utter headfuck of a track that has more opposing meters in it than I’ve had doughnuts yet still manages to make sense, well, to me, and brutalise the ear’oles. Genius.
Closing ripper ‘On The Fence’ pulls in strands from everything that has gone before and pushes them into warp-drive. Brutal riffage shatters into a million pieces, drums batter and twist, bass clanks and thunks and Burke near busts a gut. When its finally over, the silence is deafening and jarring.
A yowling, thundering, skronking, thunking multi-levelled pile-up of a record, Build And Burn is very much the kind of complex avant-fuckery that I dig muchly. Sure, it’s not for everyone – a lot of folks will just end up bewildered and with a skull-splitting migraine – but if you like it in-your-face, genuinely progressive, unrelenting and fierce you’ll find much here to dig your teeth into.
Now for fucks sake don’t leave it another five years between albums boys, okay?
Scribed by: Paul Robertson