Having spent much of the last two years there I would just like to say that I
think that Norwich is a lovely city to live in. It boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country, has a lot to see and do, and is seemingly full of polite, approachable people who are more than willing to have a friendly conversation with you. It also has been described by QI host Stephen Fry as “a fine city…none finer” – a stamp of approval well worth having. It is therefore surprising that such an inoffensive, pleasant and kindly city has produced so many ‘angry’ bands: Maths, Lonewolves (R.I.P.), Baptists, Dorian Gay, and Throats (technically from Spalding originally and then re-located to London…whatever) - the list goes on. Another name to add to this list is hardcore/powerviolence sextet Jackals.
Their self-titled debut EP is relatively short and what it may lack in length it certainly makes up for in intensity. For 10 minutes it grabs the listener by the throat and relentlessly throttles them as it thrashes away. Once the cascading drums and brooding, down-tuned guitar chords from opener ‘Intro (Ritualistic Chest Beater’
give way to a crushing riff it is clear that Jackals are not going to relent – and they don’t. The dual-vocal assault of Wes (low, harsh) and Jack (more higher-pitched, despairing) combines with a barrage of menacing guitars, guttural bass and visceral drumming to aurally assault the listener. At times they conjure Black Flag (‘Hopeless’
); at others Converge (‘Free of Life’
) but all the while they retain their own identity. Jackals are hard to define – there are elements of hardcore, powerviolence and even the rock-infused punk of a band like The Bronx, but fundamentally this is angry, even violent, music that is still smart and precise.
The EP is littered with many fantastic moments such as the gradual textural deterioration before the breakdown in ‘Free of Life’; the ominous march of guitars and drums at the start of ‘Embers’
and the monstrously heavy bass line at the end of ‘Hopeless’. All of this pales in comparison, however, to the concluding tour de force that is ‘You’re Nothing’
. Nearly twice as long as any other track on the EP, it is afforded ample time to develop from a thrashy hardcore section through a tense bridge into an overwhelmingly claustrophobic coda as everything, the guitars and vocals in particular, seemingly collapses in on itself.
Overall, ‘Jackals’ is a very impressive EP – especially for a debut. There is very little that you can fault with it. In fact the main flaw is that it is only ten minutes long! From start to finish the sextet relentlessly bombard the listener with both angular and aggressive guitar riffs, a bass tone that feels as if it is sawing into your skull, a powerhouse drum performance and an exciting dual-vocal assault. Though ‘Jackals’ is very brief the band succeeds in exhibiting their talent as musicians and as songwriters, having crafted some genuinely interesting and immediate tracks here. One of the most impressive debuts from a UK band in a long while.