Review Summary: Infest managed to both pioneer a genre and produce some of said genre's greatest offerings. This album is no different. Give No Man's Slave a spin and it'll be the best 16 minutes you've spent in a long, long time.
Formed in the midst of the hardcore punk movement of 1980s Los Angeles, Infest was a band that did things a little differently. By combining the aggression and anger of hardcore punk with the noisier, sludgier sounds of grindcore and thrashcore, this four-piece gave birth to powerviolence. While the band did not coin the term, never before had these elements truly been combined in such a successful way, to create such a different sound. In 1988 Infest produced the landmark album, Slave
, which set the bar quite high for all acts to come and still stands out today as a fantastic powerviolence release. In addition to Slave
the group put out several demos and splits, however none of these truly captured the greatness of their debut LP. After about 10 years Infest finally called it quits, each member moving on to different projects. It was always rumored that they had produced another full-length album, recorded in 1995, that had never seen the light of day. In August of 2002 that album was finally allowed to see the Sun. It's name – No Man's Slave
: an album that not only matched it's predecessor, but surpassed it.
The album begins as fittingly as one could possibly imagine – with a broad, sweeping description of hardcore punk music itself.
“Punk music generally (that is, hardcore punk) is characterized by its speed; it has a lot of 'fuzz,' as musicians call it, cranked into the music; it's high volume, high speed, characterized by protest-type lyrics” (From the opening track, “Cold Inside”).
When referring to Infest (and more specifically to this review, No Man's Slave
), this is the understatement of the century. High volume? Ear-bleeding. High speed? Average song length = 51 seconds (A number that is certainly thrown off by the 5 minute finale) with a full running time of approx. 16 minutes. Infest takes what what we know as hardcore punk and pushes it to its extreme.
Within the first 18 songs of the album there are truly no “standout” tracks. All of them are equally assaulting on the senses, with pummeling drums and ultra-fast, distorted guitar and bass and shouted vocals, and follow a similar song structure (as we all know, if one wants variety, the subdivisions of punk are not the places to look). However, I don't see this as a bad thing. All of the songs work together and flow together to form a complete work, devoid of weaker or stronger points. While the recording is a little cleaner and has clearly been mastered a little better than that of Slave
, it does not at all detract from the energy and raw emotion that is poured out in every song. However, it is the final track, “My World... My Way” that truly brings the work together. Shifting from the brutal assault of the previous tracks, the finale brings out a sludgier sound, with a slow, driving tempo that clocks in at 5:25, almost certainly Infest's longest recorded song. The track was originally performed as an instrumental live in 1991, but it is singer Joe Denunzio's vocal addition to the recorded track that truly makes the song. While most of the vocals are hardly decipherable on the album, lyrically Denunzio remains fairly similar to most of the scene, with songs often speaking to socio-political issues such as war and poverty.
With this, their final release, Infest managed to refine and perfect their sound. It is a fitting finale to the legacy they leave behind in punk music. Give No Man's Slave
a spin and it'll be the best 16 minutes you've spent in a long, long time.