Review Summary: Like a menacing and ominous stare in music form
"I give good headaches." This is the first line bellowing from Jordan Blilie's lungs on Head Wound City's first full length A New Wave of Violence
. Opener "Old Age Takes Too Long" begins Violence
with its stomping/skipping drums and noise-chugs. It plods along nicely enough with catchy shouts and mindless backup vocals until it suddenly ends. It's fairly tame for the bands standards but that doesn't mean it isn't scorching. However, I'm not sure if it sets the record up very well. Strange choice for an opener in my opinion.
So here we are, deep in the city of head wounds. We haven't visited in over ten years. Their first S/T EP was fun and it was a face melter for sure. Packed with angular riffs and vicious drumming and unmistakable brattiness from aforementioned Billie. The band now plays with much less urgency but are more prone to use clever and creative writing while exploring vastly larger sonic territory. The songs are far more serious both in texture and in lyrical content. Gone are the absurdist song titles and grind stereotypes. That isn't to say it's all doom and gloom though. You can find some really joyous riffs and sing along parts peppered throughout the albums short runtime.
Although the overall feel here is serious and dangerous many of the songs could still be considered fun ("I Wanna Be Your Original Sin," lead single "Scraper," and the catchy as *** "Closed Casket") but it doesn't detract from the vibe of the record. Most of the songs hover around the two minute mark and not much overstays it's welcome. Take the second track "Born to Burn" where guitarists Nick Zinner and Cody Votolato trade off each other with rhythmic chords and the rest the band of explodes through the gates for a minute. Then for the final 45 seconds of the song the band just jams off of tremolo picking and rolling tom drums in a sort of trance-like state until the vocals come back with screams of "BURN! BURN! BURN!" With an extended instrumental interlude and an actual chorus Head Wound City are showing us that this definitely isn't the same band from before.
They don't seem content with just blowing your brains out anymore. There is definitely a vibe that the songs have been crafted
this time around. Take "I Cast A Shadow For You" which feels like a straight up regular ass song. It's got a few verses, a couple choruses and even a bridge! It also must be mentioned that this song has such a hypnotic quality running in the verses. The track is layered with reverberating guitars and backup female vocals and a somewhat "chill" vibe. The atmosphere is very cool and dense until it expands into a massive heavy chorus.
Now while the band is craftier and more mature (a decade will do that to you) they haven't lost all of their edge. "Palace of Love and Hate" is pretty gnarly with its breakneck speed and descending bridge breakdown at the end. "Avalanche in Heaven" is also heavy as *** with it's distorted bass intro and barrage of chords while Billie screams demands to feed him to the rats. When they are pulling out these sort of thrashing hiccups of violence, the band succeeds at showing the listener their chops as musicians.
There is plenty of throwbacks to their old sound, such as the single-note guitar stabs on "Head Wound City, USA." But there is a new experimental component running through out this album. The closer "Love is Best" has an eerie atmosphere with about a dozen layered vocals all screaming at you intensely. Producer Ross Robinson was able to successfully capture all the albums twists and turns. The production is clear, but not glossy.
Some people may listen to this album and feel that it isn't heavy enough, it isn't fast enough, it isn't thrashing enough. And certainly when you have a rhythm section consisting of drummer Gabriel Serbian and Justin Pearson those accusations are somewhat justified. These are the same guys that brought you all those mind-boggling rhythms in the Locust. But the band just doesn't seem interested in doing the same thing that their EP already accomplished, and I can actually admire that. I think all these guys have proved that they have what it takes to melt your face off, both in the EP and in their various other projects.
I'm hoping Head Wound City puts out another album of this quality soon. I really dig the path they are going down with Violence
, with its ode to the past and thrash, but with an ear pointed towards something new. Like a menacing and ominous stare in music form.