Temptation can come in a broad and varied landscape of enticement; it can be a warm seduction or a nagging teasing among numerous other incitements. In the hands of Danish band Halshug it is a challengingly fearsome proposal and as their new album proves one irresistible proposition.
Hailing from Copenhagen, the trio of bassist/vocalist Jakob Johnsen, guitarist Mathias Schønberg, and drummer Mads Folmer Richter create a voracious trespass of hardcore and noise punk but as their third full-length Drøm quickly establishes it is a sound which has evolved across previous releases to embrace industrial, post punk, and numerous other darkly bred sounds. Its title translated as ‘Dream’, Drøm is bred on the theme that dreams are “a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind. And also sort of a vision or a wanting of something more than just what is.” With even richer depths and variations to that exploration, the album never leaves ears and imagination alone in thought. Whether nagging on the psyche, intruding on the senses, or manipulating body and imagination, a degree of emotive frustration almost lining it’s every moment, it harasses from start to finish and it has to be admitted, few moments shared here this year have been more rousingly thrilling.
From the moment album opener, Kæmper Imod, with its first breath begins clipping at ears, attention and appetite were stirred; Richter’s magnetic percussion almost teasing as it lured. Seemingly knowing when the listener should be hooked beats hold a momentary pause from which a punk scourge of sound and voice explodes. The band’s hardcore instincts fuel the eruption as the song continues to grip and captivate, its proposal just taking on a whole new character to its beginnings and escalating both by each raucous senses baiting second.
It is an outstanding introduction to Drøm yet quickly and continually eclipsed or certainly matched across the release with next up Dø Igen raising the ante in craft and temptation. Richter’s beats again make for an animated and compelling coaxing and more than equalled in enticement by the visceral growl of Johnsen’s bass. If the first song teased with a whiff of post punk amidst darker sonic deeds, the second track exploits their tenebrific coercion to ravish and inflame the senses. From within its voracious noise clad insurgency, essences of bands like Faith No More, Sex Gang Children, and The Three Johns tease which only adds to its inescapable seduction of ears.
Schønberg’s filth soaked guitar brings Fantasi to ears next; Johnsen’s similarly polluted vocal attack standing eyeball to ear on the tide of antagonistic punk riffs and rhythms. Devious twists and diversity only add to the excellent track’s evolving body and increasing prowess before Giv Alting Op swings in with matching animosity and discord. As with all tracks, there is a kind of psychosis which shapes its tone and invasion; one never allowing a moment for album or listener to relax within the infernal kaleidoscope of illusory or maybe real provocation.
Spejl hounds and disturbs next, riffs and rhythms chaffing on the senses as melodic toxins and scorched grooves seduce across a volatile gait which launches itself with nostrils flared and at times prowls with equally venomous intent. Once more there was no defence to the at times almost drone like quality of its urging as neither was there any barrier to prevent the industrial compulsion and intimation of the dystopia flooded 02.42. The track’s cold intense threat is as claustrophobic as it is galvanic; a web of intrigue and ravening malevolence greedily devoured, rapacious hunger just as forceful and rabid for its successor Tænk På Dig Selv. Again Richter had rhythmic claws in psyche and instincts from the off before all three musicians unleashed their enterprisingly tortured throes of sound and emotion. If that was not enough to embroil the passions, an X Ray Spex meets Essential Logic flavoured sax incursion only sparked lustier reactions.
Through the feral yet imaginatively crafted transgression of Ingen Kontrol and the virulent sonic appropriation of the senses by Et Andet Sted resistance was thread bare to the album’s continuing indeed increasing domination, not that defiance was actually contemplated or offered, a fact the closing majestic post punk incitement of Illusion seized with rhythmic and sonic devilment. The simply glorious instrumental is part nightmare part psyche haunting escape from reality and simply cathartic suggestion to, as we found, increasingly greedy ears and animated imagination.
It is an avidity flooded appetite which is just as ravenous for the album as a whole especially as every play revealed further aspects to its devious body. With a presence and sound which ultimately defies being truly pinned down Drøm has declared itself as one of the year’s essential moments.
Drøm is available now via Southern Lord @ https://halshugsl.bandcamp.com/releases
Upcoming Live dates:
7 Sep – Oslo, NO – Vaterland
12 Sep – Aalborg, DK – 1000Fryd
13 Sep – Aarhus, DK – Radar
14 Sep – KBH, DK Stengade
20 Sep – Gøteborg, SWE – Kulturhuset
27 Sep – Malmø, SWE – Plan B
28 Sep – Stockholm, SWE – Hus 7
Pete RingMaster 24/07/2019
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