Balaclava ‘Crimes Of Faith’ – album review

Balaclava ”ËœCrimes Of Faith’
Forcefield Records (via Southern Lord)
CD/LP/Download – Available now”¦

2011 AD ”“ Dark times; music tends to reflect the times ”“ that being the case Balaclava sound mighty pissed off!

The accompanying press release describes Balaclava as “hailing from the filthy bowels of Richmond, Virginia” ”“ Not sure what the local tourist board will think of that? However having listened to their first release “Crimes Of Faith” something has certainly had an effect on the members of Balaclava; Joseph Dillon (Drums), Daniel Finn (Guitar), Peter Rozsa (Bass), and Daniel Sanchez (Guitar) who stated “The name is in reference to the ski mask worn by guerilla warriors ”“ specifically the Zapatistas, who were/are a huge influence on me ideologically”

They cite influences ranging from Neurosis to Cursed and His Hero Is Gone; all of which is pretty evident. “Crimes Of Faith” when stripped down would be hardcore punk, and a particularly nasty intense version at that ”“ to this Balaclava have added elements of extreme and doom metal; the result being a sound that ranges from sludgy, crust-ridden dirges to restrained ominous melodies to very brief moments of blistering triumph, Sanchez commenting “the first recorded song was a heavy, doom-influenced cover of Conflict’s ”ËœFrom Protest to Resistance,’ which I think sums up our sound in a nutshell”

Myself, I’m not so sure; the album is hampered by overindulgence – opening track ”ËœVictims’ being a case in point, stunning guitar/drum intro which then continues for nearly five minutes before the vulpine howl of the vocals commence, before at six minutes they drop away, however the track runs to nearly eight minutes, the later section not really contributing anything further.
”ËœThrone Of Grace’ follows and benefits greatly by its comparative brevity ”“ aggressive hardcore punk is to the fore, rasping voice, and some progressive lead guitar that lifts the track. The ten minute ”ËœThis City’ opens with a guttural whine, whatever it is that these boys are pissed at is difficult to establish ”“ not a hope in hell of understanding what’s being screeched, and no lyric sheet is provided.

According to Sanchez “Swedish and Japanese hardcore and metal are huge influences on our sound,” adding “as well as elements of crust, doom, and all sorts of other genres that people would never guess. I think it’s kind of fruitless to try to describe what we sound like ”“ the music should speak for itself ”“ but I have always considered us a punk band that didn’t need to adhere to rigid standards of song writing. It’s sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, always heavy and always genuine.”

When it works for Balaclava they successfully produce a dense, punishing apocalyptic sound played with a savage energy that can overwhelm the senses leaving the listener floundering for an appropriate response. Sadly these moments are frankly over shadowed by the inclusion of just too many ideas ”“ ”ËœThis City’ sounds like three tracks molded together, the mutant result is just confusing.

”ËœLess is more’ a mantra Balaclava should consider.

“Crimes Of Faith” is not a bad album, in parts it’s enjoyable in a sadistic deviant certainly illegal way ”“ what it does do however is highlight a band with immense promise, if Balaclava are able to take that next step then many will listen.

Track listing: 1.Victims, 2. Throne of Grace, 3. This City, 4. A Prophet, 5. The Geometer’s Hand, 6. Omega Point, 7. A Prophecy

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


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