Sunday, March 11, 2012
Sunday Sludge: Hunters
You already know the story. You purchase tickets to a show, you leave work a little early, you keep an eye on the time knowing you can't be late. On the other hand, you also know there's time for one more beer. You don't wanna run the risk of nodding through some shitty upstart that's only playing a gig because they know the bar owner. Timing can be the difference between too jazzed to drink or too drunk to fuck.
I was never worried I'd miss Truckfighters' Chicago gig last week. I knew Karma to Burn had withdrawn from the lineup, some Jayhawks named Midnight Ghost Train were filling in, and Chicago natives Hunters remained on a promising bill. Beyond that, I can reflect and admit that I didn't know shit. From an adjacent room where PBR flowed like wine, I detected an inimitable, guttural sludge rattle that annihilated any defenses I may have faked. Unlike the majority of show openers I'd seen and heard, I didn't want Hunters to leave the stage.
I try to leave behind the ink and paper at shows. I love feeling the kick-drum thump in my chest and the growling pains in my ears. I love watching what band members do to their instruments, to their audience, and to each other. Hunters brought the hot mire from every direction: visually, sonically, emotionally, and frighteningly. The five shadowy, imposing figures warming the stage weren't there to sell records or get laid. All they hoped to be was loud, dark, dirty, and heard. Well, Hunters... you succeeded admirably.
Their set went longer than most opening bands can boast, a testament to the audience's strong response to the blistering filth. Immediately undeniable is Chris Angelucci's vocal lashing. You'd think a huffing, 400-pound demon was splitting skulls in hell. And to categorize the sound as sludge is unfair, given the myriad of elements and tempos Hunters' sound holds. Luke Tobias and Ryan Kasparian form a guitar tandem that's as sticky as it is lightning-quick. And if you thought any sludge write-up was leaving out the rhythm section, Jeremy Pyrzynski and Brian Kutanovski have grasped the low-end so well that they're no longer wasting time practicing. They're busy kicking your fucking ass.
Ah, hell. I couldn't help it. I had to be that guy. "Hey, man. Uh, you guys are awesome. Uh... I write for this blog, y'know..." Luckily, Chris is more inviting than his stage presence would have you believe. The band's debut full-length, From Birth To Soil, was in my hands and prepped for exhaustive dissection. I did my homework, only to learn the pedigree of the band's associations helped to craft some impressive liner notes. The Atlas Moth's Andrew Ragin served as the disc's producer? Ah, Christ... I'm sold. Further, these fuckers ain't been together terribly long. The album's sludge attack is fast, vile, and unrelenting. How they managed to garner the support and attention they already have is no mystery once you hear the disc's eight tracks.
I worried the album was eating my car when I first played Predatory Skin, but rhythm broke the mangle and entered a blistering, tempo-shifting crust-punk introduction to a band that you simply can't brush off. Chugging tempos follow Angelucci's "Death is nothing but a last embrace" assertion, exuding a confidence that's sadly scarce with other young, promising acts. Engine of Deceit wastes no time either, with a quick grind feeling up rolling rhythms. Sludge? Yes. But you may struggle to keep pace if you're not hittin' rock cocaine.
Gears move slower on Grime Maiden and Cult of the Cross. Both rife with gigantic, viscous pacing, the guitars ultimately smack you upside your stupid head and wander into thick puddles. The blistering motor is sure to return, but you knew that. The riffs soar and the sound is absolutely fucking huge. Listeners will find the lyrics of World Lament to be the best and most cerebral, but good luck sidestepping the intermittent guitar slice and pummeling drum attack.
I gravitate toward doom elements, and Tapeworms has that haunting cadence that somehow soothes. The track's punk sneer is worth noting, but the vocal "growl to howl" gets my vote over alternative rock's "whisper to scream" any day this week. Chopping, plugging with brutality, I'll argue Tapeworms as the disc's best song. Enter the true southern sludge of Traitor Internal, however. The violent grind and churn, the Eyehategod influence that's not as detectable as I'd like it to be, the gorgeous repetition. Regardless, the enormous sludge crunch I've discovered at the end of this album is gonna keep me coming back.
I clearly need to get out more. I spend countless hours sitting at a desk in my own little world, taking pip-squeak notes and throwing my fist in the air wondering if neighbors can see my silhouette. Seriously? When a band like Hunters can deliver both on record and on stage, I'd better ask my wife if I can borrow my balls for a few hours. If you live in Chicago, visit any of the countless clubs this band will play. If you can't make the trip, visit their bandcamp page and download Predatory Skin for nothin' at all. Ya dig that, head here to stream the entire album.
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