Words El Jefe.
Raw, scary bands are few and far between these days. Australia once had a veritable stranglehold on that market. Venom P String, Grong Grong, The Birthday Party to name a few. All that ugly noise, and a blatant disregard for life, limb, mike stands, hearing, the future.
Melbourne’s High Tension don’t exactly sound like any of those bands, but the random, anarchic noise-rock they assault us with has the same outta control “fuck you all” vibe, and couples it with a raging nightmare of emotionally saturated screams and bestial rock riffs. Not that EVERYTHING is off the leash. Just most of it.
Vocalist Karina Utomo has a great bag of tricks to work from. Larynx shredding blowtorch screams through to death metal growls and even has time for some gentle moments inbetween. Matt Weston and Damian Coward are a heavy as fuck rhythm section, and keep the taut and edgy riffs grooving, while Ash Pegram’s mangled guitar provides an evil counter-balance to the vocals.
These guys, to their credit don’t seem to have a stylistic formula in place either. Killed by Life has a slight nod towards Motorhead and Iceman and Hell, Repeat are heavy, guttural blasts of noise while Take Control starts with an eerie “quiet room in the mental hospital” feel, and slides in and out of a heavily distorted, lumbering riff. The quietly spoken vocals particularly had the power to creep me out in that “I just found some dead spiders in my bed” way and are doubled with some tasty rasping howls.
The closer, What’s Left, is what ‘80s pop would be if the Family had chosen to make an ’80s pop record. Instead, they murdered a bunch of people. Not sure which crime is worse really; ’80s pop, that is, not this tune.
Bully is a great album, lotsa dark themes, ugly notions and gargantuan riffs. All this is fused with lyrics that border on being an out and out tirade. I was occasionally reminded of Amen and that same kind of unbridled rage on display. Its potency lies in the wholly unique and unhinged style of rock’n’roll they’ve spawned, and all of which kinda left me feeling like I’d found the pin, but couldn’t find the grenade that came with it. They play Sydney next month too, so I can’t wait to check ‘em live!