There is no doubt that this year will leave an indelible and life changing mark on us all in varying ways and degrees. It is also one which has already inspired and bore the fruits of true imagination and creativity, music being to the fore of that ‘upside’. We have found and devoured numerous releases and artists which have used enforced isolation and time to craft fiercely memorable encounters and joining the forefront of that surge is the new album from Swedish outfit Maggot Heart. It is a record which gripped and sparked the senses, a collection of tracks that trespassed and danced with the imagination and a release which confirmed individuality and unbridled attitude is as fertile as ever within rock ‘n’ roll.
Maggot Heart is the creation of Stockholm born and now Berlin based guitarist and songwriter Linnéa Olsson, previously most known for co-founding doom metallers, The Oath (Rise Above Records) and being part of Beastmilk earlier this past decade. Forming the band as a vehicle for her songwriting in 2016, Maggot Heart soon released the City Girls EP with debut album, Dusk to Dusk, following a year later. Both earned keen attention and support as Olsson’s fusion of post punk, noise rock, punk, and hard rock proved as unpredictable and individual as it was feral and uncompromising, a fusion quickly proving addictively magnetic for a great many. Mercy Machine is no exception, the album a fever of sonic intensity and emotive ire upon a cauldron of voracious sound which quickly enslaved.
An album “about sex, death and the pursuit of freedom”, Mercy Machine soon proved as compelling in sound as it is in word and theme, every song a unique trip into the shadows and the twisted echoes of life within from an artist which fingered the rich depths of the psyche and imagination. Joined by long-time drumming partner Uno Bruniusson and bassist Olivia Airey with additional enterprise from Gottfrid Åhman, Maggot Heart erupts in a clash of sound as album opener Second Class bursts in ears, the track quickly uniting its sonic twines within a predacious stroll fuelled by an acidic groove our appetites could only greedily devour. Its post punk instincts are a deliciously nagging hue alongside the just as rapacious tones of Olsson, her voice as her guitar strings almost stalking the listener whilst springing infectious temptation. It is a welcome harassing which continues as the song darkly evolves, its clamour bordering on the concussive and its enterprise succubus like feasting on the psyche with sighs of brass and harmonic luring particularly irresistible.
The superb start is swiftly matched in captivation by Sex Breath, its carnal breath and animation rock ‘n’ roll virulence which squirm under the skin in no time, the body an animated puppet to its punk and garage rock manipulations in no time. It soon has a hold on favourite track but as quickly has to contend with the repeated success and dexterity of its predecessor, Justine. The outstanding encounter flirts as it trespasses with every note and breath, drama lacing its twists as imagination soaks every compelling second presenting enticement which at times is akin to a union of Night Goat and Pink Military as Pere Ubu fingers the outcome.
Roses is another proposition which feels like it is sizing up the listener before breaking into a fruitful landscape, a song not so much menacing its recipient but certainly setting down the ground rules before seducing ears with psych rock flavoured seduction bearing a Siouxsie and the Banshees lining to its sonic web. Ensuring that top song decision becomes more crowded, the haunting slice of temptation makes way for the just as addictive Gutter Feeling. Straightaway it prowls the imagination, rhythms and grooves a tenebrific tempting impossible to resist as too is Olsson’s striking tones and presence within the mercurial adventure which at times seduces with a Gang Of Four meets Wire like teasing or swings like The Fratellis and in other moments surges with Killing Joke-esque cravings.
The album’s title track is next, punk and psych rock entangled in a hungry canter magnetically prone to schizophrenic outbursts while High Rise is a sonic stalker, peering down on one’s insecurities before haunting those same weaknesses with post punk taunting filtered through addiction forging drone. Both tracks easily join the list of nothing but major highlights so far to be instantly accompanied by the similarly raptorial Lost Boys. Reminding of The Victorian English Gentlemens Club in some of its creative traits, the song, as all, revels in the exclusivity and quirk of Maggot Heart’s sound and invention.
The closing pair of Senseless and Modern Cruelty ensures the album ends as potently as it starts; the first a darkly lit almost occult rock hued slice of doom soaked post punk while its successor badgers and goads ears with its hungrily catchy gait and invention amidst punk fired belligerence. With a crescendo which had body and spirit bouncing, the song tipped a hunger of more into instant replay of the whole release, a cycle hard to escape or even want to leave behind.
We have been seriously hooked up on a host of records this year so far but just maybe Mercy Machine dug the deepest; dare you embrace the creative barbs of Maggot Heart?
Mercy Machine is out now via Rapid Eye Records; available @ https://maggotheart.bandcamp.com/album/mercy-machine
Pete RingMaster 13/08/2020