To listen to In The Mourning Light, the new EP from UK hardcore band Black Shapes is like being caught within an intense and violent storm. It is a rampage of furnace hot passion and unbridled aggression which leaves one gasping for breath and holding on to anything close by for strength. It is also one of the most rewarding and exhilarating releases from the genre, certainly in the British scene, for quite a while.
Formed in mid 2011, the London quartet took no time in gaining enthused attention with their self titled debut EP at the tail of last year, easily confirming the promise shown with shows alongside This Is Hell, Landscapes, and Brotherhood of the Lake, as well a successful performance at Hevy Fest 2012. Since that first release the band has also undergone a line-up change with new vocalist Gareth Evans (November Coming Fire) and bassist Mike Ager (Jairus) joining up with guitarist Jonathan Goldthorpe and Richard Wooding on drums. This new combination has added an extra snarl and depth to the band as the July released single/video Let Valhalla Burn first showed and this their new four track explosion confirms. Recorded in August with Steve Sears (Gallows, Spy Catcher, TRC), the EP chews up the senses and spits them out with relish and force, it is an intimidating and at times nasty slab of extreme punk, and wholly satisfying.
Beyond The Grey smashes into the ear first, its initial grinding riffs and sonic blistering bursting into an onslaught of concussive beats, rabid rhythms, and abrasive scathing sonics. Barbed hooks capture the imagination within the crushing attack and venomous intent whilst the gritty grooves just rip the passions from the heart into their own pockets. As much as it is borne of today there is plenty of old school punk essences to ignite the passions, the track a twisting feast of all that is the best of the genre. The vocals of Evans are as caustic as the lyrics; their presence leaving a sore but blissful wound, but it is the unpredictable and continually engaging invention which secures compliance to the excellent assault. As with all the songs, first engagement is all about fury and aural abuse but it is within the next few confrontations where the impressive structures and imagination reveals their mischievous glories.
Behind My Dead Eyes barges in next, its breath as combative and uncompromising as in the opener and equally destructive in intent. Within its muscular outrage the track shifts from furious and frantic energies through oppressive breakdowns and light sucking shadows, its prowling climax a consumptive devouring of emotions. It is not an easy union for the ear but openly rewarding and fulfilling, a provocative fire which succeeds in its mission to leaves provoking scars and thoughts.
Next up, Rose And Lace charges with anthemic and barracking energies, its unrelenting vitriolic blitz speared by group shouts, crippling rhythms from Wooding, and flesh wilting sonic corruption from Goldthorpe. It is a delicious violation, as invigorating as it is energy sapping, but on all songs and especially here the bass of Ager holds the key, his cantankerous and primal lines bringing that final additive to make great songs into special ones. As a whole Black Shapes feels complete, every aspect of the band pulling every ounce of adrenaline and invention out to create songs which yes abuse and debilitate its recipients but also inspire and ignite latent passions and pleasures.
Thunderous completes the wreckage causing release, the track another insatiable tempest of knee buckling rhythms and flaying riffs alongside insidious basslines and squalls of spiteful vocals. It is as immense and irresistible as what came before and just as turbulent.
Released as a 7” vinyl through Speedowax Records or as a pay your own price digital download via their own bandcamp (www.blackshapes.bandcamp.com ), In The Mourning Light is simply outstanding. With its release Black Shapes easily show UK hardcore has never been healthier or more gratifying.
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