Death Pill’s story is one that’s travelled far and wide, even outside of traditionally rock-oriented spheres. The trio has been scattered over three different countries following the Russian invasion of their native Ukraine, with this debut album being finished remotely and released a year to the day from the start of the conflict. It’s truly an unprecedented circumstance, and while it might seem gauche to imprint some extra sentiment of defiance to an album that couldn’t possibly have been prepared for this, it’s also kind of unavoidable. It’s already produced the immortal quote from frontwoman Mariana Navrotskaya, “We smashed the patriarchy together and now we smash Russia together,” a fitting layup for hardcore punk painted in deep shades of thrash and riot grrrl.
That’s not quite as innovative as it might sound, but Death Pill’s sheer intensity is more than compensatory. Navrotskaya especially is great here, snarling and spluttering with genuine animal intent, and on Kill The Traitors or Расцарапаю Ебало against an equally thrashing backdrop, it’s the best that Death Pill get by a not-insignificant margin. Her cleans, on the other hand, are a bit less strong, and on Would You Marry Me? that feels bent around the instability and histrionics of the vocal performance, it’s rather hindering. Even so, that’s the only distracting example; a song like Die For Vietnam does melodic a lot more effectively, hinged to a sharp, shocked hardcore punk instrumental that’s able to keep far tighter.
In general, Death Pill’s sound is really competent and keeping to that precision. It’s not a long album and the pacing is rather quick, and to the trio’s credit that they aren’t just throwing out fragments or notably incomplete pieces. A lot of that comes down to how well their genre-blend is managed, where neither the punk nor the metal really falls out of equilibrium. It’s impressively consistent in that regard, in how well that can manage the attitude and firebrand vitriol that Death Pill spit. The feminist streak is furious and righteous in equal capacities on Miss Revolt and It’s A Joke, turned up even further on Kill The Traitors or Расцарапаю Ебало that might as well just do all the despining themselves.
It’s all pretty unyielding, even in the melodic flourishes that turn things down insomuch as the flaying is a smidge less brutalising. The ravine on Death Pill’s collective shoulder becomes all too apparent, and with the state of the world that inadvertently and interminably widens it, the sound of a band fighting tooth and nail for what’s right couldn’t sound more vital. But even as just a killer heavy release that wouldn’t hesitate to rip your face off if given the chance, Death Pill deliver in spades.
For fans of: Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, Exodus
‘Death Pill’ by Death Pill is released on 24th February on New Heavy Sounds.
The Good Ship Lollipop
Anyone going into Venomous Concept’s fourth album, realising that it’s mainly formed from Napalm Death and Brutal Truth alumni, enjoying the grindcore of their previous work, and noticing a conspicuous lack of it here, might be a tad disappointed. Except they probably shouldn’t be, given than Venomous Concept was always built on Kevin Sharp and Shane Embury’s mutual love of classic hardcore punk, to where their very name itself is a play on Poison Idea’s. Granted, it’s always been a presence alongside their extreme metal tendencies, but The Good Ship Lollipop is a departure from even that. Hardcore remains in place among far more melodic punk and metal, and it’s ultimately a way to draw out what might be Venomous Concept’s best.
That’s undeniable in how massive and quaking literally everything on here sounds. When the title track kicks off with its stuttered riff supported by a fat bassline already in contention for the year’s best, there’s a lot of hope riding on whether or not that can be pulled together for the duration. Thankfully it is, anchored in a sonic size that interweaves as much groove and melody as possible, but not at the expense proper grit. If anything, having it all moving in tandem is where the magic comes from, as evidenced by So Sick’s backslide into death metal that’s nowhere close to being as fleshed-out as what’s around it. It’s almost like Venomous Concept know that too, as Flowers Bloom comes directly after with the album’s bar-none brightest guitar lead, and a melodic punk instinct that’s so captivating to watch thread through a visibly metal shell.
Chiefly though, it’s just a really cool sound that Venomous Concept can make so much from. Be it in hardcore chugs or more defined, riffier metal, there’s a sweet spot within heavy music that these four pairs of feet are firmly planted in, in terms of a swallowing, locomotive sound. The lyrical focus on ploughing forward and dealing with darkness certainly has that effect, but you can’t deny it’s Sharp’s vocals that tie everything together. Guttural and sludgy and with a vigour to mask any imprecision, he really is the lifeblood of The Good Ship Lollipop’s hookiness. The mixing ultimately elevates him even further—as with basically everything else on the album—to accentuate how raucous and cavernous it can all be. Few individual highlights don’t detract from what remains a rock-solid technique whenever it’s applied, and how much rough-and-tumble personality it gives.
Perhaps ‘accessible’ is the wrong word, but there’s a magnetism here that’s previously been threatened on Venomous Concept albums but never properly realised. Here though, there’s no danger of that; it’s easily got the highest replay factor of their catalogue, and the sense of a passion project wholly connecting its lines. It’s no surprise there’s almost a whimsy and fun that’s chugging away in the background, not with Venomous Concept at their most indelible here. Don’t be disappointed that it’s not more grindcore, because here’s a gem of totally different composition, but that’s just as well-cut.
For fans of: Black Flag, GBH, Poison Idea
‘The Good Ship Lollipop’ by Venomous Concept is released on 24th February on Extrinsic Records.
Six years after the breakup of letlive., it’s still kind of surprising to see new projects from its members come out. Maybe it’s because Jason Butler’s Fever 333 was ready to roll within a matter of months, and that drew the bulk of attention that letlive. had previously had, for a project that felt like a logical next step. ERASE THEORY, meanwhile, is on its own totally different path, the new project of guitarist Jeff Sahyoun staking its claim within quasi-industrial pop-rock instead of incendiary punk or post-hardcore.
A downgrade? Perhaps, but really not to the extent that some could make it out to be. It’s evident that Sahyoun is still finding his feet and working out the best way to go about this, which is why the guitars can sound a little flattened on Topshelf, or 20xx is a weird, watered-down Danger Zone imitation that would damage nothing it if were culled. On the other hand, Lost It simmers and throbs with the propulsion of 2010s post-hardcore minus its frequent empty calories, and the lockstep crack of Closure is just as solid at cultivating a harsher mood as it always is.
Sahyoun himself also turns up rather nicely, with a vocal performance that’s got some surprising resonance to it. He’s not a million miles off Chester Bennington’s more emotional range, as a matter of fact, placed right at the front of the mix to really accentuate how strong he can be. It’s a pretty organic vocal showing for this sort of sound, too; no production feels gratuitous, and when against an instrumental that can roar a bit more loudly, power becomes pretty easy to see rather than simply implied through context. And on a collection of songs about rejection and heartbreak that dutifully avoid overwrought melodrama, and actually present real, tangible weight, that’s worth appreciating.
It feels like a little more than a lucky first shot as well, even when it could still do with some extra finishing touches. There’s certainly trust to be had in Sahyoun given his old band’s track record, but ERASE THEORY stands taller than most purely on its own merits. Apparently this is the product of real creative drive amidst grinding through work and college, and you do feel that; there’s a human release to this that similar pop-rock or alt-pop seldom has. There’s another EP already in the can as well, so it looks like it’s all systems go for ERASE THEORY going forward. If that means building on a bunch of promising ideas already laid down, then that’s only a good thing.
For fans of: Hands Like Houses, newer Linkin Park, Too Close To Touch
‘ERASE THEORY’ by ERASE THEORY is released on 24th February on Icons Creating Evil Art.
Words by Luke Nuttall