Faster Than I Can Think

Faster Than I Can Think
Sonic Poison's Grinded Leftovers

Welcome back to Former Clarity. I had some topics I wanted to explore up top here, but I don't want to wade into the muck on those things right now. Instead, I want to direct you to a couple of items that I think are worth your time and attention before getting into some fun music stuff.

To start, for all my fellow gear-obsessed music friends, my pal Anthony has launched Stompbx, a website that's effectively Discogs for pedalheads—minus the selling portion. For a site that's only a few weeks old, he's done a lot to build the archive of pedals in the database, and he's even put together some lengthy articles that are helpful for newbies like me. There are few things more inspiring to me than someone with a deep passion for a subject deciding to make something that expresses their love for it, and Stompbx is exactly that. I know there's a lot more in the works—including a full redesign to make it even more functional—so keep checking in. It's incredibly sick.

Now, for news that's a little less feel-good. A couple of weeks ago my friends Joe and Kate lost everything when their apartment burned down. If you're in Chicago, you may have read about it but, their apartment is completely trashed and they lost every single worldly possession during this horrific event. As a result, there's a GoFundMe where you can donate to help them start over. These are two incredibly kind, warm people whom I've known for many years, and it would mean a lot to me if you'd at least consider sending a few bucks their way. All we ever have is each other.

Finally, my pal Tim and I relaunched As You Were: A Podcast About Alkaline Trio to discuss the band's latest album Blood, Hair & Eyeballs. If you want to hear us go deep on a bunch of relatively new (and remarkably good) songs every week until we run out, find us on the podcast player of your choice.

With that, let's talk about some records!

Coffin Storm, Arcana Rising

Is it a good sign when you bust out laughing at a song the first time you hear it? I'm truly not sure. When I first played "Under Frozen Moors," the first single and opening track on Coffin Storm's debut album, I was expecting it to be at least mildly goofy. For those not in the know, the band is a Norwegian supergroup that features Darkthrone's Fenriz on vocals along with members of Aura Noir and Nekromantheon, though each person's resumé is far deeper than that.

If you've not kept up with Darkthrone over the past 15 years, you may have missed the memo that they are no longer spooky black metal guys. In fact, Fenriz is basically playing the role of your heavy metal uncle. That's been his vibe for a while and it's one that's incredibly prominent throughout Arcana Rising. I knew going in he'd be doing his drunken warbling atop this and that is, more or less, what he brings to the table here vocally. He's paying heavy homage to early doom metal vocalists, only without the skill to go full falsetto. Somehow, after I got the immediate revulsion out of my system, I grew to like what he was doing on here. It's going to be a tough sell for a lot of people, and I don't fault anyone for balking at this and immediately turning it off. But me? I think I'm in the bag.

Public Acid, Deadly Struggle

As a rule of thumb, I try to avoid making grand, sweeping statements about what's going to be the best album of the year until it's actually time to throw my The Far Side daily calendar in the trash. What I say in March may not hold come December. Or maybe I'll be in a different headspace, and what thrilled me today won't feel as exciting then. But despite my misgivings about pointing to the grandstands and calling my shot, I feel confident in saying that the new Public Acid record will likely be my favorite hardcore punk release of the year.

Though I liked the earlier Public Acid material I was never blown away by any of it. As a result, I approached Deadly Struggle with a touch of trepidation. The hype came quickly for this one, so even before I clicked play I did so with the attitude of, "Yeah right, what's gonna be so good about this" coursing through my contrarian skull. Within two songs I felt like an absolute dolt for ever having those thoughts.

To me, this is exactly what hardcore punk should sound like. It's raw, cluttered, and feels like every instrument is peaking when the band really digs into these riffs. There's no subtlety here, and there shouldn't be. At a sprightly eight songs—and a runtime that doesn't even hit 15 minutes—I've played this album a ton and don't see that changing anytime soon.

Reek Minds, Malignant Existence

After Reek Minds released their second seven-inch in 2021 I assumed they'd broken up. Given the abbreviated lifespans of hardcore bands, a couple-year gap without much activity usually signals that a band has run its course. So it's hard to express how excited I was when I saw Iron Lung Records was releasing Reek Minds' debut album Malignant Existence.

The production on this album brings a bit more of a Septic Death vibe to the forefront and, as a result, the vocals really become a feature here. The music is fast, bruising hardcore punk, but these vocals. Listen to "Residual Suffering" and tell me it doesn't sound completely painful to deliver those lines. At times, it reminds me a bit of Aaron Aspinwall of The Repos, just a completely unhinged approach that basically says, "I don't care if I blow out my voice and can't talk to tomorrow. I don't care if I can talk ever again. I hate all of you anyway." The rage, disgust, and nihilism are so palpable that I feel it in my own throat when I hear bands like this. This is a complete masterwork, and everyone trying to make unruly hardcore should take note.

Oh, also, how absolutely sick is their profile picture on Discogs?

Septage, Septic Worship (Intolerant Spree Of Infesting Forms)

Speaking of completely gross, uncomfortable vocals, let's talk Septage. This Danish band has been a favorite of mine for a while. Their two seven-inches and split with Hyperdontia delivered on that early Carcass sound better than a lot of other bands trying it, and this debut album continues that trend. Musically, this is still a gurgling batch of goregrind, but there are some musical steps taken that I think really take the band to the next level. The riffs on "Candidiasis French Kiss" feel like being on a tilt-a-whirl that's slowly spinning off-axis. This destabilizing approach to songwriting gives the album an off-kilter vibe that is usually lacking when bands just blast through every transition.

There's also a subtle sense of humor packed into this—over half the tracks have the word "septic" in the title—that shows they aren't taking themselves too seriously here. It's that attention to the particulars that make this a fun album to dig into, as its overwhelming nature hides a bunch of tiny details that deepen the listening experience and make it all the more effective.

Sonic Poison, Grinded Leftovers

Sonic Poison's Eruption was one of my favorite albums of 2023 and this new EP is a truly worthy follow-up. The production is a bit more lo-fi here, but the songs remain powerful in spite of that. It's grindcore done right, with plenty of catchy solos and memorable hooks inside this whirring cacophony. The most notable change is the addition of more pronounced noise elements into their songs. Songs unfurl into washes of chaos in the back half here and there, while the closer, "Excess - No Less," is straight-up noise-grind. If you don't have an affinity for that final Insect Warfare release, that might not be for you, but I love leaning into a whirlwind and grasping for the discernible elements until everything else comes into focus.

Valtatyhjiö, Kuristusleikki

In 2021, Finland's Valtatyhjiö put out my favorite demo in recent memory. I still revisit Lukko regularly, as it takes the classic Finnish hardcore sound and introduces this wiry, metallic edge that elevates the entire recording. I was desperate for a follow-up and, finally, Sorry State Records has released the band's new four-song EP Kuristusleikki. At first blush, I was disappointed. Those rapid-fire double-kick sections were pulled back in the mix, and this batch of songs felt more like standard-issue Finnish hardcore (though that's not a bad thing). As I kept going back to it, the more I uncovered the same details that made me fall in love with Lukko. Only this time around, they were twisted into new shapes.

The metallic leanings on "Petoksen Messias" feel borderline black metal in their icy structure and presentation, but it never seems like they're trying to do some lazy genre mashup. While people love to throw accolades at hardcore and punk bands that crossover into other genres, this is far more impressive to me. Valtatyhjiö understands how to take outside influences and work them into their framework, showing that you can still make vital hardcore punk without having to kowtow to commercial interests. I can't wait to hear what they do next.