Review Summary: Delivers exactly what it promises: 10 tracks of raging hardcore.
Control, the EP follow up to Extortion’s critically acclaimed 2006 album Degenerate, markets itself as a released suited to fans of hardcore legends Infest and Black Flag. Pioneers of the power violence and hardcore punk genres respectively, both bands were able to create records whose sheer hatred, frustration, and anger remain potent archetypes overshadowing most young hardcore bands to this day. Extortion undoubtedly sets up a high standard to meet, but fortunately it serves as a testament to their relentless conviction and force that they not only wear their influences proudly on their sleeve, but have the musical chops to back it up, producing a unique sound of such high caliber that Control takes only 8 minutes to demolish any notion that hardcore punk is a dead art.
Control wastes no time getting to the point, immediately establishing a propensity to make you lose your *** and wreck havoc on everyone in your surroundings. Whether in the pit or the playground, opener “No Motive” offers little warning and no build up, simply a fleeting bass introduction before exploding onto your speakers, the track setting the template for what is to come: a flurry of drumbeats and furious power chord riffs layed down at breakneck time. Intensity wise, Control immediately stands toe to toe, and often outstrips, similar efforts in the hardcore and power violence genres, aided though avoidance of the muddy production or mechanical dissonance that mars many bands in favor of a raw simplicity reminiscent of the early 80’s hardcore they admire. Extortion’s crisp production does, however, add a heavier, thrash like quality to the mix (in the vein of bands such as Ceremony) utilized to great effect. Each track comes through clear and concise, with all instruments sharply defined and audible, including the bass work and especially the superb vocal performance that never gets lost in the mix, remaining extremely forceful while, for the most part, intelligible.
In the same manner as Extortion’s other records, Control benefits from an impressive display of variation across a nine minute run time. While tracks such as “Uniform”, “Mountain of ***” or the nine second long “Bound and Gagged,” serve as brief moments of powerful, speedy hardcore, others, such as “Curl Up and Die” or instrumental closer “Demolition,” lower the tempo for some excellent sludge – the former in particular being a stand out largely due to a seething, unrestrained vocal performance. Most importantly, the tracks avoid repetition or monotony, seamlessly switching between different speeds and riffs to make the record continually captivating and replayable – a trait Extortion used to great effect on the equally impressive full lengths Degenerate and Sick.
Lyrically, the album meets the regular standard of loathing and disgust that hallmarks the genre. Yet far from being tiresome or clichéd, the lines of Control, while rough and aggressive, nonetheless come across as honest and thoughtful, aided by a vocal delivery that feels every word. Amidst an often revolving door of line-up changes, vocalist Rohan (who also provides the stellar artwork for the band) has remained a key constant, his trademark scream providing the emotional intensity which sets Extortion apart. As the title suggests, the album explores various methods of social control and imprisonment, covering the usual topics such as consumerism, conformity and a wider contempt for mankind with a confronting directness which is mature in expression, emotionally charging and socially aware.
While it is all too easy to pass such efforts off as yet another drop in the endless ocean of hardcore punk which, after 30 odd years of playing power chord combination at high speeds is overwhelmed by mediocrity and monotony, Control presents a fantastic example of an intense hardcore record which should not be overlooked. Brimming with passion, anger and most of all – conviction, Extortion demand respect and deserve attention as a band carrying on the legacy of hardcore without shallow mimicry. On Control, Extortion really are pushing hardcore to it’s absolute limits, consistently maintaining a crushing attack of rage while avoiding the pitfalls of a speed obsession or relying on a mask of gratuitous noise and indistinct production. With each short burst of nihilism, Extortion drags the listener closer to their level of misanthropy, delivering an aural and conceptual thrashing that lingers long after the blows have stopped. It's a hell of an achievement for a nine minute EP. And it feels great. Consume and lose hope.