Oakland trio Tension Span consist of Noah Landis (Neurosis/Christ On Parade) on vocals/lyrics, Geoff Evans (Asunder) on guitar/synth and Matt Parrillo (Dystopia/Kicker) on bass/guitar/synth/additional vocals. Considering its membership, the band can be seen as something of a supergroup which was spawned during the pandemic.
The artwork by Neil Grimmer, John Yates, and Matt Parrillo with its stark black and white imagery reflects the band members roots in the ’80s and early ’90s peace-punk/hardcore scenes. There are UK anarcho-punk Crass vibes too, all of which make for extremely promising listening.
Prologue, meaning an introduction or preface, is exactly that, a brief forty seconds of moody drones with which to set you up for the upcoming album. Cracked Society, the first proper track on the album, sounds like Arise era Amebix. Like that band, Tension Span take elements of Killing Joke’s dark post-punk and give it a punk metal twist, demonstrating more of a simmering anger than outright rage, this is a fantastic track.
The title track, The Future Died Yesterday, is a driving number that will prick the ears of Rudimentary Peni fans as well as admirers of legendary proto-industrial/post-punk outfit Chrome due to the presence of an ‘otherworldly’ charm. It would be wrong to compare The Crate Song directly with The Buzzcocks but there is a pace and directness that recalls that band, minus the twee teenage angst lyrical focus of course. This leads to the longest track on the album Filaments at just over six minutes, pure post-punk recalling The Cure and Joy Division with a krautrockian pulse. It’s certainly a good deal more subtle than its predecessors and makes for melancholic and considered listening.
Tension Span take elements of Killing Joke’s dark post-punk and give it a punk metal twist…
While Ventilator does showcase the band’s more aggressive tendencies, let’s not get carried away, it’s hardly Cryptic Slaughter or DRI level tempos. Instead, you have a sludgier vibe that one might find on Rainbow Grave’s classic No You album or any Flipper/No Trend release, which subsequently makes the track far more effective in its impact than the aforementioned crossover speed freaks.
Covered In His Blood is primarily an instrumental but with spoken word news samples that cover religion and the pandemic, and listening to the track I was instantly reminded of Conflict’s The Guilt And The Glory (the version on the Employing All Means Necessary compilation). Musically it taps into horror punk but in conjunction with a more serious politically orientated message that makes for an interesting listening to say the least. Problem People reminded me of SST outfits such as Saccharine Trust with the snarled vocal delivery and discordant post-hardcore dynamics while Trepidation taps back into the more post-punk/goth side of the record ala Filaments, a deliciously prominent bassline keeping you hooked throughout.
I Have To Smile is another instrumental with some lovely synth work and atmospherics that remind me both of The Chameleons as well as San Francisco’s overlooked industrial pioneers Factrix, meanwhile Human Scrapyard brings a more familiar sound to proceedings with shades of early Neurosis when that band were starting to shape the sound they would eventually become renown for. I Can’t Stop This Process is another sample led Instrumental piece with a broodingly hopeless feel and that continues with Didn’t See It Coming which concludes the album on a low-key death-rock tip.
Seeing as the reprehensible actions of a former member have scuppered Neurosis’ plans for the foreseeable future, I am thankful we have projects such as Tension Span to help fill the void in the meantime. Musically diverse and topical without being overbearingly didactic makes this an excellent listen for fans of Neurot Recordings output.
Scribed by: Reza Mills