Shooting Blanks and Pills
If you’re unfamiliar with the output of French label Throatruiner Records, then unrivalled excitement lies ahead for you and your family. An afternoon of sampling their stellar online catalogue will immediately bring to mind that giddy head rush experienced on Christmas morning; Santa’s been. Tightly-wrapped presents piled generously high, arranged with aesthetically on the sofa. Anxiety heightened and anticipation building; the wait is almost unbearable until you find yourself tearing relentlessly at the decorative paper with childlike abandon.
Quickly you realise that despite the letters you have written, and the prayers you have said were all in vain; it is the wrong train set. Initially there is slight confusion, a fleeting thought that at first perhaps your parents are merely jesting; a badly judged lampoon on this annual day of celebration. Resistance is futile as the confusion develops in to sheer disappointment, which in itself transforms into a feeling of emptiness; face flushed red with rage and hatred.
‘Shooting Blanks And Pills’, the debut record by Cowards, has me believe that their parents have kept the receipt for a few trains sets over the years as this is an ear-shatteringly brutal collection of songs, delivered with an uninhibited yet carefully controlled intensity. The band's press information indicates long standing influences in the realms of crust and black metal; in fact the band line-up consists of members of a number of established acts such as the expansive black metal group, Glorior Belli; their credentials cannot, therefore, be doubted.
Those crusty blackened metal assertions are incidental though, as there are components of ‘Shooting Blanks And Pills’ that immediately brings to mind those progenitors of metalcore, Vision of Disorder and Will Haven. Fear not intrepid readers, as my understanding of metalcore may differ from yours. I hark back to a time when metalcore was an attractive concept; bursting out of the mid 90s hardcore scene to devastating effect. There were no skinny jeans, white brogues or angular hairstyles; okay admittedly there were oversized basketball tops and blonde dreads, but we shall place scene fashion faux pas aside on this occasion.
Amid the hardcore ferocity was a sheet metal wall of noise focussed on driving rhythms, a snare drum set to tight, and a guitar tone so thick and viscous that you’d think it had been made by Lyle’s. Unfortunately both Will Haven and Vision of Disorder faded into relative obscurity with intermittent and fleeting returns to the live arena; allowing the hipster accredited Cave-In and Coalesce to steal their thunder. With any luck, Cowards will steal theirs with relative ease.
‘Arrogant Unseen’ is a blur of fist pumping aural cruelty; forearm stiffening bass passages tear along with an underlying familiarity. I can’t quite put my finger on it until I hear Alex Newport in my head, screaming ‘Wasting Away’.
The huge one-note riff and grumbling bass which anchors ‘Last Card’ has more than a touch of Will Haven’s down-tuned hardcore and ‘Hoarse From the Get Go’ shares much of the unrelenting violent drive of ‘Imprint’-era Vision of Disorder; however the guitars are lifted from the depths to foray into one note crust territory.
The nine minute mid-album opus ‘Scarce’ provides brief respite with subtle channels of guitar but you remain wary, and with good reason; a colossal riff casts your reprieve asunder as Cowards encourage Eyehategod's down-tuned misanthropy to pervert the classic tonality of Crowbar by way of the Orange Thunderverb 50.
On the strength of this release, one can only hope that Cowards are going to have many more shit Christmases .
Posted: Tue 17 July 2012