A growling, snarling beast of a release, Misery is the debut album from Swiss quintet Down To The Bunker and an encounter which marks them out as one richly promising, indeed already impressive proposition. Offering up nine tracks of alt metal predation merged with heavy rock contagion and hardcore dissonance it all delivered with potent technical prowess and an uncaged heart, the release is one wake-up call to and declaration of intent from one rather exciting outfit.
Formed in 2012, the Genève hailing band has worked through years of line-up instability as it searched for the right personnel. It is a time though the band equally used to explore and hone a sound which is as unpredictable as it is varied and adventurous. A self-titled EP in 2015 drew keen attention though its support live was a struggle with again a changing line-up trespassing the next steps for Down To The Bunker. Now though things seem to have settled and with the band’s strongest line-up to date, the stability relishing result being the striking Misery.
Embracing a sound which sees the likes of Tool, Korn, Rage Against The Machine, Meshuggah, Gojira, Promethee, and Code Orange amongst its inspirations, Misery is an album which arouses as it challenges. Almost every moment has attention glued to its lures, the thrill of the unexpected rearing its head throughout an encounter which twists the familiar into its own pattern of fresh imagination and invention. Certainly there are moments where it ebbs and flows in the intensity of its temptation but there are few if any moments where it allows the listener to impulsively drift off elsewhere.
From the opening bait of first track Mother, the album was burrowing under the skin; sonic lures straining against the speakers urgently wanting out. The guitars of Matt and Jerem continue to bait the senses as heavier and darker strands join them, the bass of Arnaud a predatory taunt alongside the considered but imposing swings of drummer Léo. Completed by the fine tones of vocalist Jo, the track swiftly grows into a formidable and compelling incitement, imagination and unpredictability increasingly fuelling its enterprise and inescapable persuasion.
The increasingly magnetic and impressive start is easily continued by the album’s title track. It too springs from a seductive sonic lure if one which lances the senses rather than caresses them. The emerging web of guitars ensnared ears with swiftly nagging and devious intent; a strength of coercion matched in voice and rhythm. There is a touch of Mudvayne to the track at times which does it no harm or indeed the atmospheric winds which bring haunting melodies amid seemingly calm but dark aural intimation.
With the twisted canvas of The Asylum a refreshing bedlam of sound and individual craft shaped into another tantalising captivation come threat and the, at times, even more creatively unhinged and similarly fascinating Chrysalis, there is no let up on attention and enjoyment. Each track lured and trapped both with a creative greed which alone marks Down To The Bunker out, a dexterity in thought, songwriting and adventure which equally infests next up Ethics. As with all songs, it is a writhing collusion of sonic vines and metallic dissonance matched in vocal and lyrical dispute, and like each a blend of the barbarous and seductive as a cast of styles and flavours join up to ignite the band’s imagination and sound. There are moments of deceptive and corrupted calm which maybe disrupt the flow and impact of the track but it is that unexpected ideation which also makes it as potent as anything within Misery.
Through the intimately reflective and melodically evocative Waves, a quest with its own underlying snarl, and the sonically invasive and haunting Lost In The Desert, there was no let up on bold enterprise and striking intimation. The latter is like a senses suffocating limbo which slowly but surely reveals it’s waiting demons and distortions resulting in an experience which gloriously tests and provokes.
a final pair of bonus tracks in Machine and Alive brings the album to a dramatic and imposing close. The first and another major highlight of the release openly wears familiarity in its holler yet it would be hard to say it is anything other than a Down To The Bunker creative clamour while its successor prowls, pretty much crawls through ears with a great mix of heavy grunge and rapacious metal bound in melodic volatility.
It is a great end to an album which just pleasures and grows more impressive over time. In their seventh year Down To The Bunker will be making their first introduction to a great many with Misery but it is easy to believe they will be no strangers to them and major spotlights hereon in.
Misery is released February 22nd via Tenacity Music; available @ https://tenacity-music.bandcamp.com/album/misery
Pete RingMaster 20/02/2019
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