The recent release of their single Walker Texas Danger suggested that the debut album from Norwegian punks Bokassa might be something a little bit special. The track was a relentless nag of their self-proclaimed stoner punk, a breath-taking tirade of sound and attitude simply demanding attention and lustful reactions. Its potential and promise is more than lived up to by Divide & Conquer, even left looking pale at times by the album’s unbridled tempest of hardcore ferocity, punk belligerence, and stoner bred grooving. Beyond being special, it is one of the essential listens of 2017 from a band you still feel is only just starting out on their creative journey.
Hailing from Trondheim, the trio of vocalist/guitarist Jørn Kaarstad, drummer Olav Dowkes, and bassist Bård Linga took little time in sparking eager ears and local bordering national support with the release of the three track strong EP, The Great Northern Roadkill in 2014. It was the following year though through a couple of singles and the War On Everything EP that their presence really began breaking borders, success enabling Bokassa to tour across their homeland with the likes of Hold Fast, The Dogs, Frk. Fryd, Johndoe, Exploding Head Syndrome, and Warp Riders. Released on Record Day 2016, the single Make Music Great Again pushed things again, with Walker Texas Danger their biggest triumph and pull yet. It is now easy to think and expect Divide & Conquer to be a game changer for the band, the trigger to bigger, even the biggest spotlights to pay dues to one of the truly exciting prospects around.
A lone melody brings opener Impending Doom into view, its rich coaxing soon seeing stormier clouds gathering above it as riffs and rhythms join its enticing groove. Its slow stroll and portentous air subsequently slips into the waiting tempest of Last Night (Was a Real Massacre). Instantly energy and aggression is turned right up; spiralling grooves and rabid riffs grabbing ears as rhythms angrily thump. Like a raw and dirty collusion from Red Tape and Fu Manchu, the track devours the senses, feverishly crawling over them with plague like hunger to powerfully feed the thick anticipation triggered by the band’s previous single.
It is that song which comes next, Walker Texas Danger slamming its bruising qualities upon the listener from its first breath. Kaarstad is a squall of vocal attitude and discontent backed with matching antipathy by the band in voice and sound. Grooves though spin an infectious web as rhythms give a primal examination and Linga’s bass provides a grumbling lilt to the song’s stoner fuelled swing. The whole mix is glorious, a reason to welcome exhaustion before Crocsodile Dundee shows no mercy with its antagonistic rumble. Metal seeded acidic melodies court the song’s punk ‘n’ roll catchiness whilst its heart is pure hardcore pushing a magnetic bluster lying somewhere between Ghost of a Thousand and fellow Norwegians Shevils.
After its rousing assault, Genocidal Tendencies brings greater restraint in its own raid though weight and spite is as full and unbridled as in its predecessors. Equally, the song shows more of the variety at the heart of the Bokassa sound and songwriting as dark harmonies and wiry grooves conspire with the inevitably punishing rhythmic and sonic incursion also escaping the band. As magnetic as it is merciless, the track is a tenderiser of the senses, their ravaging provided by Five Finger Fuckhead with its scourge of hardcore truculence bound in mouth-watering grooves as vocal dexterity plays within the band.
As each song’s final breath becomes the next track’s first, the album just flies by, never allowing the listener to regain balance or composure. Here Goes Nothing rises from its predecessor with a head-rush of violent tenacity and creative adventure. Arguably the album’s grooviest, most kindly catchy proposal, it still offers a cauldron of intensity in its emotive onslaught while any ‘lighter’ tones are boldly absent on the punk rock salvo unleashed by Retaliation straight after, the song an one minute ambush of appetite’s sweet spot.
The album is closed by the raw captivation of Immortal Space Pirate (The Stoner Anthem). The album’s longest proposition by a mile, the track is a volatile smoulder threatening to erupt with every passing second. It never really does but there is no lightweight essence to its groove woven canter and rhythmic swing, its scuzzy air and cosmic filth as much manna for a passion for raw rock ‘n’ roll as its melodic escapades and uncompromising tide of intensity. Across its seven minutes, Bokassa merge acoustic and harmonic prowess into their instinctive sonic blitz and stoner punk ferociousness, the song alone revealing the width and depth to the band’s imagination and potential.
The bottom-line is that Divide & Conquer is superb, a bewitching brute of an encounter only leaving sheer pleasure and a hunger for plenty more.
Divide & Conquer is out now digitally and on Ltd Ed vinyl via All Good Clean Records through http://www.allgoodcleanrecords.com/onlinestore/ or https://bokassaband.bandcamp.com/album/divide-conquer
Pete RingMaster 28/03/2017
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