Review: White Hills ‘Splintered Metal Sky’

God Unknown Records brings you Splintered Metal Sky, New Yorkers’ White Hills latest, a band so prolific you would be forgiven for losing track of their work to date. Formed in 2003, Ego Sensation (bass/vocals) and Dave W (guitar/vocals) are the band’s founding and only constant members and sonically take their cues from the likes of Hawkwind, The Stooges, MC5 and Spiritualized.

White Hills 'Splintered Metal Sky'

Midday Memory opens the record to a series of harsh noise that one would find on a Cabaret Voltaire album. According to the promo notes, the album is inspired by the drone and roar of machinery pulsing through New York and this is reflected in Now Manhattan. Listening to this track brought to mind bands such as Einsturzende Neubauten and Foetus, industrial music from a time when it meant exactly that, before the self loathing nihilism of NIN or the goth theatrics of Marilyn Manson.

aCoNSTRUCT is a short 32 second slab of noise that segue-ways into Digital Trash, a number that has a  Kraftwerk/early Skinny Puppy influence. The simplistic vocal phrasings of the former gels nicely with the harder industrial grooves of the latter. The five second No Fear could be White Hills take on Napalm Death’s You Suffer, in the sense that it comes and goes in a flash. The number of bands inspired by Swans is incalculable and next track Honesty is the latest to dip its hat to that band, a no wave slammer reflecting the ugliness of New York’s more brutalist inspired architecture.

Illusion has a punkier vibe to it and is possibly the most conventionally aggressive tune on the album, making it a very effective way to conclude Splintered Metal Sky…

bCoNSTRUCT opens the second half of the album, and is akin to the sound of the New York City subway and the people utilising it. This isn’t entirely coincidental seeing as during the recording process, the band gathered field recordings of sounds from the city and incorporated these into the music. Rats is a grimy, low key rumbling affair that maintains the same tempo throughout and reminded me of Ministry’s overlooked and understated classic Filth Pig, especially their interpretation of Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay. Seeing as I’m a fan of that album there was every chance I was going to appreciate the style of this particular track. Numbers sums up the sense of frustration that one would feel if they were caught up in New York traffic, I could picture this fitting in on the Lost Highway soundtrack with its sense of foreboding.

Jim Jarmusch makes a couple of appearances and could be seen as the album’s USP. Jarmusch is a fan of the band, who had a role in his vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive, he is also not a stranger to making music, having been a member of 80s no wavers The Del-Byzanteens before catching the directing bug. cCoNSTRUCT is one of two tracks to feature Jim’s ambient guitar-work (the other being Illusion) and it’s something of an ambient (so to speak) interlude that passes pleasantly along. The aforementioned Illusion has a punkier vibe to it and is possibly the most conventionally aggressive tune on the album, making it a very effective way to conclude Splintered Metal Sky.

The album reminded me of the direction Radar Men From the Moon took on their superlative The Bestial Light album. Similarly White Hills tend to have their feet in the psych scene, but decided to change things up with an industrial/Swans acid metal style album. This may confuse, and possibly alienate, the band’s hardcore fanbase, but for those a little more flexible to change, it makes for an intriguing detour and a worthy addition to their deservedly esteemed catalogue.

Label: God Unknown Records
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Scribed by: Reza Mills