Words Joel Parnell.
First albums are easy. You essentially pick the best ten or fifteen songs you’ve ever written, think of a cool title and “Voila!”, debut sorted. Second albums are where shit gets real. You’ve got a period of about fourteen months to become inspired enough to write an entire album that is as good as, if not better, than your first album; all the while touring like a motherfucker to promote your debut, then record and release the fucker before you lose momentum and nobody gives a shit anymore. With that being said, Clowns have met this challenge in the same way that a bullet is introduced to an old nemesis; with unwavering determination and the climatic release of Bad Blood.
Clowns sophomore release begins with a discordant guitar intro which aptly sets the tone for what is to follow; a record that is altogether heavier, smarter, more vibrant, calculated and evolved than anything the band has previously recorded. As the first track socks you in the ribs and bumrushes you into the second, it becomes evident what is perhaps most remarkable about this band; Clowns have a unique way of simultaneously appealing to both a hardcore and contemporary pallet. Their music is fiercely old school and brutally heavy but is also a great deal more accessible, melodic and dynamic than the peers with which they share a genre.
The albums lead single Euthanise Me is classic Clowns; full throttle, Bronxy punk rock’n’roll with all the hutzpah of a baseball bat with a nail stuck through the top. Those familiar with the bands previous recordings will notice a renewed maturity to Clowns stylistic approach. They aren’t afraid to explore musical territory that breaches the bounds of what is considered ‘Punk’ and it pays off in spades on these ‘rockier’ numbers.
It’s not all catchy chorus’ and hooky rock riffs though. On the songs in which Clowns have chosen to showcase their hardcore side, they really raise the bar. Figure It Out is every bit as primal, frustrated and downright aggressive as Pantera’s Strength Beyond Strength. Karina Utomo (High Tension) adds a dimension of tension to Infected (penned from behind the kit by Jake Laderman) with her deep, unholy growl and tortured banshee scream weaving and undulating alongside Stevie Williams’ raspy battle cry.
These Veins marks one of the albums most fully realised moments of greatness, with a sound that seems to be born of a rendezvous between the two stylistic extremes by which Clowns template has been established up until this point. The influence of Frenzal Rhomb, The Bennies and The Descendants is worn proudly on their sleeve here and will no doubt be an instant crowd favourite.
From Swallow Your Dreams onwards the album dives headfirst into a plethora of extreme hardcore pile drivers, most notably Derailed, (it goes for seven seconds!) and Play Dead which features the longest recorded scream I have ever heard and makes way for its climax, the epic Human Terror. The closing track on Bad Blood is Clowns most ambitious song to date and showcases Stevie, Jake, Herny and Joes formidable prowess not only as musicians and songwriters but also as artists in the wider sense of the word. It takes true vision to produce work of this magnitude and Clowns have effectively shaken their tag of ‘bratty punk upstarts’ to lay claim to a much higher level of artistry. They can no longer be summed up in one paragraph or caged within the confines of one genre. You can’t put an eagle in a pigeonhole.
Clowns ‘Bad Blood’ is out Feb 20 through Poison City Records.