By Will Forster
Insectoid buzzing in your ear as you jar half-awake to another day of inert frustration, half-assedly sweep the alarm to the floor but it just keeps piercing. Pick it up thru slit eyes, use everything in your will not to smash it to pieces, turn it off. Fuck. Might as well get up now, you tell yourself, as the last buzz subsides off the four walls. Dazed by never enough sleep, you lurch through morning routine – shit/shower/shave/shudder at the thought of another day droning by in a rainy blur of workaday mindnumbery. Soaked from your five-minute walk to the stop, you catch the bus, sardine yourself in among the other drones, not making eye contact – all of you herded aboard Charon’s ferry to incremental damnation, eight hours at a time. Muddle through the day, whatever it is you do – shaking hands, grinding teeth through another cup of coffee, eyes to the clock, knife in your back. Day in, day out. For what? A life you’re too tired to enjoy at the end of it? A plaque thanking you for years’ selfless service making someone else a lot of money? A carrot on a stick? For fucking what.
But once in a while, albums like Bushcraft come along, are there, fully aware, cognizant of the anger, the frustration, the boredom, the bottled, throttled, explosive rage simmering, desperate, an unlit Molotov somehow miraculously appeared in your throwing hand, just waiting for a reason and a light. And you listen. And for just a little while, you go off.
Twenty-seven desperate, flailing minutes: fuck this job, fuck this city, fuck this cop, fuck this rain, fuck this bus, fuck this slumlord, fuck these condos, fuck this politician, fuck this-fuck-that-fuck-whatever-you-got. Guitars and d-beats that aren’t played, but white-knuckled to the point of splitting skin, always coming razor’s-edge-close to falling off the page even though gripped life-preserver tight. Words that aren’t merely sung, or even yelled, but stabbed icepick-like into the listener’s ears. Feral. The brief occasions Baptists DO stop to breathe (“Still Melt”, “Soiled Roots”), there’s no sense of relief, it’s just a slow-motion attack of the same caliber. Even when he’s meting out a slower tempo, drummer Nick Yacyshyn is all over his kit, playing barnstorming hell out of whatever the song offers, neck-wringing the tone from each snare-crack, each tom-fill. You can hear Kurt Ballou all over the production – rich, glorious menace in the guitars, earthen creep in the bass, Andrew Drury’s claustrophobic-rage vocal, a hoarse bark reveling in its own disgust.
The songs are the thing, riffs and hooks left and right that snatch your breath, but it’s the squeezed-fist-grip-on-your-heart attack that makes Baptists your better-than-average d-beat plus metal guitars unit. Ever-present when they play live, and by some stroke of luck it’s translated to their record – tight as a belly drum, but always that underlying sense of menace, like it could all unravel and go horribly south, but it never ever does. They just keep smashing through. Bushcraft is a great debut, and a fine addition to the Southern Lord catalog.
Bushcraft will be released through Southern Lord on February 19th.