Crowd Control | “Crowd Control”
Categorisation in music is a double edged sword.
As much as we need it for ease of consumption, the seemingly endless list of genres and subgenres out there can occasionally do a massive disservice to the music they’re actually trying to describe, and similarly are so ambiguous and open to interpretation most of the time that they’re virtually irrelevant.
There’s also of course the simple fact that by tagging a band within a particular pigeonhole, there will automatically be a large amount of people who will discard them based on the use of that description.
If for example, I describe Crowd Control as a “hardcore” band, not only am I giving you only a tiny sketch of the bigger picture but many of you will interpret that as something that’s the polar opposite of what they sound like.
If I describe them as “metallic hardcore”, you’re probably still thinking of a scale with Biohazard and Hatebreed at one end of the scale and the likes of Converge and their ilk at the other. And in truth, you absolutely could not be further from imagining what Crowd Control sound like.
If you wanted a soundbyte, I’d be firing something at you like “Witchrist covering Citizen’s Arrest”. Which is about as far from the industry standard a term like “hardcore”, “punk” or “metalcore” might usual suggest, I think you’ll agree. The only person you could possibly see circle pitting to this record is Godzilla trampling Tokyo to the ground.
While these terms may apply to aspects of what Crowd Control are doing, their overall wall of sound stretches into far greater depths of sheer gutteral force and brutality than you could possibly imagine were they to be your guide. And on this record, they have pushed their own limits further still to create what is easily the heaviest set of songs by an Irish band I’ve heard this year – possibly even this decade – so far.
Crowd Control have created a record so bestial here that fans of punk, hardcore, and underground metal have all quite rightly been forced to ignore boundaries and bow before their might. That inadvertent crossover alone is quite an achievement, but their intensity and unrelenting force have marked them out as that rare band who unite seemingly different factions.
Opening with eerie coded messages taken from “numbers stations”, and housed in a cover with an aerial view of a silent red planet and sigil in place of band name/title, the band establish an aura of detachment and coldness that most black metal bands alone would kill for.
Of course when the band kick into the one two punch of “Medication” and the menacing “Bedroom”, that coldness transfers into the kind of primal, murderous bloodthirst that doesn’t let up, bar for the occasional return to the radio signal interludes, for the rest of the brief duration of the record.
In case I haven’t already made it clear, this really is an extraordinarily brutal record. Not in terms of speed (it’s a midpaced to fast affair for the most part with the velocity really only taking over towards the last third) or technical precision or vocals as is normally intended when the “b” word is thrown around on this site, but in so far as it’s delivered like the band are beating their instruments (and each other) to death.
And in terms of capturing the starkness, monotony, and -yes – brutality of Irish life in the worst depression in living memory..well, they’ve created a perhaps unintentionally perfect soundtrack, echoed by the lyrical vignettes of suburban violence and drug abuse scattered across the lyric sheet.
The drums alone sound like some lad in a cave striking a bunch of anvils with two massive sledgehammers, and the guitars absolutely churn the guts; their low tuned pummel making them feel as much like additional percussion as they do string instruments.
Over the top float disembodied and heavily delayed/reverbed vocals that seem less like a vocal performance and more like a recording of an acid flashback. It’s disorientating and somewhat frustrating at first but you get used to it.
Thing is, while sonically these elements are all very impressive, it’s the fact that the actual songwriting here is outstanding that’s what really puts this record up there at the top of the heap. Each song has its’ twists and turns, but it all flows perfectly.
The fat is trimmed away to the point where there’s not one note that seems superflouous, and crucially the riffs are cathchier than the common cold. Take live favourite “The Herd” which opens side two – the jaw dragging opening riff giving way to some of the album’s fastest moments, before oozing into a guitar solo in it’s dying breath. Sounds bitty on paper, but on record it’s a stunner. Similarly, the d beat driven “Cokehead” has a riff towards the end that crumbles mountains – a simple idea excecuted perfectly.
Brutality alone isn’t enough to make a record great. Crowd Control have realised that, and have somehow managed the near impossible feat of producing an album that’s found a perfect balance between control and absolute fucking filth.
It’s a kind of classy thuggery if you will, and it’s head and shoulders above any other “extreme” band in this country in 2010. And unlike 99% of their peers, they’ve made a record aimed almost singlemindedly at the underground – this band have no aspirations to make anyone other than themselves happy, and their “by maniacs for maniacs” attitude drips off this record. Perhaps that will damn their chances of reaching a wider audience with such a punishing end product, but I doubt for one second they care.
At the time of writing Crowd Control’s future is uncertain – at best they’re on hiatus, at worst they may be about to call it a day, and if the latter scenario arises this is an absolutely perfect swan song for them. You will hear more musically proficient, better produced or presented records this month for sure, but I can guarantee you this is the one you’ll still listen to five years from now. An absolute tour de force.
5/5 – Jamie Grimes ::: 27/10/10