[27 March 2013]
Extreme music has proliferated exponentially in the last five years or so. It used to be that bands who carried the standard of such “off-the-beaten-path” and cozily named musical styles (such as Crust, Grind and Power-violence) would have never seen any released material pressed in a format other than hand-numbered vinyl records or barely intelligible demo cassettes; all released through DIY pseudo-record labels, of course! But clearly, these once obscure splinter genres have made an ascent from their subterranean dwellings into a heightened state of accessibility. Perhaps sociologists can someday tie this newfound mass interest in ultra-violent, pummeling sound with the angry and war-like climate of the modern world. If so, Call of the Void’s debut will probably be as good a soundtrack as any for when the human race finally deteriorates into the war of all against all.
On Dragged Down a Dead End Path, the Boulder, Colorado newcomers have channeled a palpable rage that just cannot possibly be the product of poseur mimicry. Based on their geographical origins, perhaps the correlation between the growth of brutal music’s fan base and the deterioration of mankind can be substantiated. After all, most of our modern day national tragedies, those incidents too horrible to name that are born of acute social deviance (that by definition are bona fide acts of domestic terrorism) seem to repeatedly happen in Colorado. Is it nature, or nurture? Fittingly, this sounds like the damaged product of its arguably charged environment. Visualize the ten tracks on this album as ten rungs on a ladder leading into hell, just as it’s unleashed on earth.
“Failure” opens up the psych-warfare, setting the tone with an ominous one minute rumble of maddening feedback over rolling floor-tom drums that explode into a blast beat that sounds more like rapid-fire artillery than a human being banging on a drum skin with a stick. While adhering to the sonic trappings of the Grind and Power-violence form, the lengthy format of the songwriting sets itself apart here. This band wants to make sure that their point is thoroughly made song by song, clocking in at an average of about three minutes per song (which is roughly the average time that it takes for their likely musical heroes to fire out an entire set-list.) Their take on audible ultra-violence is nuanced, often punctuating the end of a blitzkrieg blast with some peculiar disharmonic guitar licks.
There is asymmetry of time and an incorporation of frenetic tone, generating a critical comparison to bands like Converge, who thrive well in spastic timing and detuned insanity. At one point during the album some icy, corpse-painted sensibilities start to poke their heads from under the chaos. The track titled “Abomination” is set over a grim, seemingly blackened guitar riff nostalgic of frostbitten Nordic realms. Unfortunately, this intense sequence hits a wall when it becomes interspersed with a lowered brow, two-step inducing hardcore breakdown uncomfortably reminiscent of Hatebreed and the likes.
The Hardcore influences are the only debilitating quality of this release, when resorting to the use of generic scene staples such as hooky sing-a-longs and war-dance like Mosh parts that are scattered throughout. This not only reflects poorly on the inventiveness of the songwriter at blame, but ultimately robs from the originality of the total effort. Even the production seems geared more towards a hardcore band than one primarily functioning in the Crust category. Crust is typically defined by a warm, grimy tone that comes across “crusty” through audio speakers, hence the name. Uncharacteristically crisp for a band of this ilk, the squeaky clean hi-definition engineering almost undermines the abrasiveness that should be highlighted and in this case, even embellished. True seasoned connoisseurs of this musical style will not be able to help but think what would have been of this record if the men behind the boards had taken more of an analog approach. This may not pose as much of a stumble to those who obtain the record in the available vinyl format.
However, the true saving (dis)grace of this album is a subtext of legitimate, misanthropic emotion within these songs that does not diminish under the scrutiny of a mixing and mastering session. Without a doubt, younger fans that discover this will swear by this formidable freshman effort. It may prove to be a tougher sell for older, more discerning critics who know all too well the way that these ugly phrasings of time and sound are supposed to feel on the receiving end of the punishment.