Review Summary: Just a dirty, nasty, rowdy boy.Gulch
are a band that sonically embody the word 'feral' in a way not many other artists can claim to. Burning Desire to Draw Last Breath
is an incredibly brief set of songs, clocking in at just over 13 minutes, barely pausing for breath as the Santa Cruz hardcore outfit tear their way through their own potent blend of viciousness. Their sound sits somewhere between the rapid dissonance of Botch's We are the Romans
and the stomping, groove laden tendencies of Candy
's excellent debut full-length, Good To Feel
, with some clear death and black metal influences cropping up in fits and starts.
The production of the album is what really makes this collection of songs. Fairly sparse, simple and dirty, it front and centres the band's buzzsaw-like guitar tone, working alongside a vocal style that ranges from guttural death growls on the opening passage of 'R.S.A.', to the wretching fury of the final breakdown of 'Gruel for the Beast'. Frankly, the mixing feels disgusting - raw, rough and ready - and whilst this might be a drawback to a band aiming for a slightly more complex atmosphere, it serves Gulch's mission of creating a hellish and revolting take on punk perfectly. Rhythm also plays an incredibly important role on this record, with the drums taking on a mechanical driving force that feels, if very distantly, comparable to post punk. From the straight stomp of 'E. P. T. S' to the intro of 'Flesh Pursuit', where a bouncy and relentless rhythmic pattern takes over from an intro of blast beats, Gulch's snare tone forcefully propels each track to its conclusion.
Gulch tend to steer clear of being labelled formulaic on this record too, with each song varying up structure a little, to avoid the tendency often found in hardcore and metalcore: to build songs as vehicles to reach ever-increasingly crushing breakdowns. Whilst this record is undeniably a fairly meat-and-potatoes, meatheaded piece of extreme music, there's a certain precision to the construction of the songs that goes further than simply piling riffs on riffs on riffs. Moments of space are taken, tremolo-picked passages build some unsubtly blackened moments of harmonic tension, and the throbbing electronic intro track points to the potential for Gulch to explore some slightly more layered compositions.
Vitally aggressive, Gulch's Burning Desire to Draw Last Breath
is an exercise in experimenting and blending genres with restraint, and keeping it simple in the places where it really counts. Wonderfully nasty and utterly raw, this EP is about as strong a foundation as a band could build themselves, whilst providing plenty of glimpses of where Gulch could take their sound in the future.