New Flesh Vessel

[Heart Break Beat; 2007]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: art-damaged, alcohol-soaked hardcore
Others: Pissed Jeans, Unsane, Drunks With Guns, Flipper

The perceived disposability and alleged lack of musicianship in the first-wave hardcore scene sure made a lasting impression on the world of music. Ask the old guard and most of them will tell you it died in the mid-'80s when, in actuality, it morphed and became stronger. When put under a microscope, the noisy punk rock of the Amphetamine Reptile bands to post-hardcore groups like Drive Like Jehu contain a stronger strand of the hard-as-nails, disillusionment/rebellion-prone first-wave hardcore DNA. After Unsane disbanded for the first time and The Jesus Lizard chose Gggarth to produce their first album instead of Albini, hardcore seemingly died a quiet death. However, it was only sleeping after a long fuck, and its seed sprouted up about four years ago in the form of the New Flesh.

Nasty — the word often passes through the headbanger’s mind at a New Flesh show. The triumvirate of drummer Rick Weaver, guitarist Dan Propert, and bassist Jason Donnells generates fierce electricity unmatched by most bands. Onstage, they control the chaos, drenching their riffs with just enough feedback and administrate audience movement with their song selection. As far as live bands go, nothing matches the energy of a New Flesh show. Landed, Pissed Jeans, and Air Conditioning channel a similar intensity but fall short in the thrill factor. It sounds hyperbolic, but anyone who ever witnessed the band’s live destruction will tell you about their immense power.

Their recorded output has yet to match the energy of a New Flesh concert. Last year’s split 12-inch with Puke Attack came close, but the recording felt overly one dimensional. In contrast, Vessel is almost too clean, robbing the band of its dirty-rotten, fuzz-drenched core, and the screams that propel early releases. Regardless, along with 2005’s Parasite, it's one of the finest hardcore albums since the golden years of Amphetamine Reptile Records. With a black heart at its nucleus and floating nihilistic electrons, the band blast through 11 songs with an alcoholic sociopath’s warped intensity, slurring, threatening, and screaming to chase the demons out of their heads.

Vessel begins with a call to arms in the form of a militaristic drumbeat, welcoming the listener to a battle in the band’s mind. The guitar noise/threatening bass line/psychotic yell assault applied on “More Dull Irony,” the lead-off track, is standard New Flesh, albeit fast, skewed, and thrilling. Propert’s jagged, feedback-drenched guitar and Weaver’s maniacal drum abuse typify the band’s approach. Donnells’ bass is pushed back in the mix, preventing the song from reaching its full potential. The vocals alternate between inaudible and crisp -- often chunks of the psychopathic chronicle are unclear. However, these are minor gripes, as there are very few flaws on the album.

The remainder of Vessel sprawls out like the thoughts of a madman and contains enough sonic glory to power a prison. Weaver acts as an inhibitor, dictating the pace of each song by beating his drums with untamed furor. Donnells’ intimidating bass grooves paired with Propert’s noise-heavy hardcore guitar riffs give each tune the destructive power of a tsunami. As opposed to the bloody-stomach ache screams found on Parasite, the slurred, demented yells on Vessel hint more at a madness and anger offspring than simple rage. No one tune on Vessel stands above the pack because each exists on the upper cusp of hardcore tunes, somewhere around the Void side of the Faith/Void split. The title track is a ball of hate, complete with dagger-sharp guitars and vocals that alternate between an angry slur and a manic cheer. A grimy bassline foreshadows the violent outburst of “Steel & Stone”; soon, slurred manic vocals shout gutter poetics and noise-guitar sparks flare.

The wildfire album’s peak comes on “Whitewash,” a maniacal ripper that finds Propert screaming: “On your knees/ I got something to show you” to a Drunks With Guns/Today Is The Day crossbreed riff. The tune demonstrates the band’s ability to infuse the old school with the new while retaining their demented style. It should become the band’s battle cry; it’s sick and twisted but punk as fuck. So get on your knees: New Flesh have something to show you, and if you’re lucky, they just may whip it out and treat you to some of their hard-as-nails hardcore DNA.

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