Brainwashed - Harpoon/Locrian
Written by Creaig Dunton
Sunday, 10 January 2010
At first blush, I thought this was an odd paring, given that Harpoon does competent grindcore punk/metal stuff while Locrian is known more for drone and experimental with just a hint of post-punk sensibility. However, Locrian’s contribution to this 7" (plus digital) release is by far their most "conventional", and is not as an odd of a paring as I had expected.
Marked as the final physical release from this small Chicago label, it is a fine way of leaving the business: a vomit-green swirled 7" in a minimalist, black letter-pressed sleeve creates a contrast that somewhat carries over into the sound of the vinyl. The vinyl contains only two tracks (one from each artist) but a free download is provided that gives digital versions of those two, plus two additional tracks not included on the physical release.
From what I can gather, this is the debut release for Harpoon, who provide some decent, if perhaps not compelling, grindcore/hardcore punk stuff. "To The Tall Trees" is not one of those intentionally rapid-fire songs to the point of absurdity as Agoraphobic Nosebleed would do, nor is it offensive or disgusting, like other bands of the genre, so it harkens more back to the early days of the genre than more modern permutations. Considering it clocks in at over five minutes, it also has to be varied, which it is: there are slower and restrained moments to match the rapid fire riffs and sub machine gun drum programming that keep it from being an exercise in tedium. The second, download only, track "Phlegm" is a bit more surf influenced with some noteworthy variation in approach, but it doesn’t make me want to become an acolyte of the genre.
On the flip side, Locrian’s "Ancestral Brutalism" starts out similar to their other drone work, but the low frequency static texture is met with a monotone jackhammer drum beat, Andre Foisey’s complex, yet simple guitar work, and some downright metal screaming from Terrence Hannum. The band has never shied away from metallic influences before, but never have they been so overt as they are here. The buried and reverberated mix gives that more esoteric edge that keeps it away from traditional hardcore punk/metal stuff, but it is still surprising to hear this side of things, given this band’s ever-growing discography. The "bonus" track, "Antediluvian Territory," goes back to their usual sound: guitar abuse, feedback, and a slow build from ambient into harsh electronic territory. The track shows that post-punk edge that has really been emphasized in their work as of late, which I find hard to describe, but is more Robert Smith than Stephen O’Malley in its nature. Something tells me they’ve listened to Seventeen Seconds more than they have any of Mayhem’s albums, but I could be entirely wrong.
While Harpoon really didn’t set my world on fire, someone who is a greater fan of grindcore would probably find a lot to love, as there is definitely a sense of musicality and composition to their work than other practitioners of the genre usually display, and having heard Locrian’s sound developing over the past year, I think they’re definitely polishing their own sound, separating themselves from an ever-growing sea of mundane drone metal projects.