Changing their mantra from the dudely “Gnarly Times” to the more more cryptic “Choke on Your Elders,” Hair Police are heralding the induction into a new evolutionary phase of their musical career. Their latest burnt offering, Certainty of Swarms, stands as the clarion call to this event. Swarms sees the corpses of past HP releases ritually dismembered and sewn back together in a grotesque but terrifyingly proficient way. The result is a hulking juggernaut of pain and brutality, a Golem in whose mouth lies a paper scroll upon which is written one bold faced word: ‘DESTROY.’
The four-beat hi-hat count-off that ignites opener “Strict” (which may or may not be a reworking of the track on the Troubleman 7”) is likely the band’s most extended overtly rhythmic moment, but it doesn’t last, as the track quickly comes apart at the seams, devolving into an insane sputtering hiss fest, so reminiscent of their classic “Let’s See Who’s Here and Who’s Not”, that mind-blowing jugular-slicer that led off 2003’s now-classic Obedience Cuts and turned so many on to Hair Police for the first time. “Strict” is in that spirit of total destruction with no tension or buildups, and with the exception of that one tongue-in-cheek stab at traditional meter, the up-front, gnarled-out noise-rock featured on this track is classic HP, a screeching metallic maelstrom that churns your intestines while piercing your eardrums and blackening your mind’s eye. Robert Beatty’s bandolier of f/x interweave with Connelly's “vocals,” a dementedly brutal array of sounds whose only parallel within the music world may be the midget singer of black metal weirdos Abruptum (though he was being physically restrained and tortured to produce his distinctive howl). Trevor Tremaine’s drumming is more up front than on any HP release and is indeed one of the most interesting aspects of the band’s caustic stew. Tremaine’s real skill is in providing original percussive elements in line with anti-rhythms of no-wave drummers like Ikue Mori while still bringing the thunderous caveman pounding of other noise rockers like Lightning Bolt or Boredoms.
Swarms doesn’t just draw from the band’s early work, however, as more recent experiments are also reanimated on the disc. 2004’s Constantly Terrified featured lengthier, meatier slabs of municipal waste, which bubbled like vats of tar oozing from your speakers, and its sister album Drawn Dead ran even thicker and slower. On Swarms, the band welds these musical concepts back onto the underlying chassis of their post-hardcore, mosh-pit-inducing madness, as is typified on tracks like “Intrinsic to the Execution”, its gargantuan echoing bass accompanying Quasimoto as he rings a dead bell. On “Execution,” an appreciation of sonic space and subtle dynamics is brought back into the fold, with undulating waves of possessed tones as honed on 2007’s Psychedelic Forest. “Mangled Earth” continues the black metal worship, revolving around a funereal dirge phrase. Connelly sounds like his guts are coming out of his mouth, while echoing walls of nausea-inducing harmoniums further unfurl your intestines.
With Connelly stationed in Ann Arbor in order to be closer to his full-time band Wolf Eyes, one had to wonder whether his location could afford him the kind of time for Hair Police he once had. But when a big tour was planned for this past March, it seemed like Connelly would be devoting more time to his original band. Though the group has consistently explored themes of terror, fright, and horror, it was what they experienced at the outset of the tour that they claim to be the worst terror of their life: a mid-highway collision that nearly wrecked their car and scrapped their tour plans. Thankfully, our boys left the scene unhurt, and afterwards huddled together in a hotel room, with a healthy dose of post-traumatic stress. And, of course, they dealt with it the only way they know how: by jamming. That’s Hair Police in a nutshell. Like Italian horror directors Fulci or Argento, Hair Police aren’t content to just show the gore; they have the need to endlessly poke and prod it, uncovering layers of flesh and bone, and showcasing the goriest of details, escaping anxiety by exploring it endlessly.
1. Strict2. Intrinsic to the Execution3. Paralysis Simulacrum4. Mangled Earth5. On a Hinge6. Freezing Alone