Released 16 April 2021
Burning Flag’s 3rd album Matador is equal parts crushing, subterranean, atmospheric and galloping momentum. It has a heavy dose of the sonics of modern metal, but at it’s heart it is political punk says Nathan Brown.
Dismissing Burning Flag as “Scathing Northern Punk Noise” as they claim on Facebook would be selling them short. Their music will be right up your alley if you love a bit of the old “crust”. Where metal meets punk, with pounding drums and anarcho attitude. They’ve listened to rule number one of punk: hit the drums hard. Downtuned guitars with the odd minor chord ooze heaviness with the metally tone providing a satisfying elastic twang from single strings here and there. Combined with the crushing bass sound, at times the music is dark enough to sound subterranean. There are brief moments where they have a more atmospheric feel with a hint of Killing Joke and the death rock sound. Whilst they start off at breakneck speed, Burning Flag don’t rely on this gimmick, using heaviness and good driving riffs to power the album along.
New addition Holly, formerly of Kiss Me Killer, has a strong voice which you’d need to power through the mix. Whilst mostly their style follows the strained shouting hardcore pattern she sometimes actually sings. This gives Burning Flag some variety to make them stand out from the crowd of crusty doomy political punk bands. Backing vocals punctuate the odd song here and there to good effect.
Heavy extended mid sections are almost songs in their own right without feeling incongruous. This shows a creative approach to songs reaching beyond simple verse, chorus, middle bit, and allows them to get away with a few songs beyond the magic 3 minute mark without sounding sluggish.
Matador explores themes of mysogyny, toxic masculinity and government corruption with some class war punk rock politics thrown in (Eat The Rich). Well chosen samples punctuate and accentuate the messages. Socio-political or personal-political, it’s rooted in relevance and anger at actual shit going on rather than bland theory. This is the power of political punk. It can make issues relevant that many on the left will turn into such bland sloganeering as to make you switch off. It’s a shame it has limited reach but bands like Burning Flag have the potential to appeal to a metal audience as well as punks.
After a minute or so of quiet music box twinkles, opener Thrown Out kicks in with heavy down strokes, galloping drums, a shouty vocal and backing roars over an ascending riff. And so begins a 35 minute, 10 song journey written and recorded during lockdown.
There is not a bad song on here but I found myself particularly taken with the last 3 on the album.
Vendetta is a tale of feminists fighting back against misogyny including a revenge assassination in the chorus. the lyrics work well to project suitable imagery, as if from a movie or novel “she waits in the shadows, with him in her sights, she pulls on the trigger with no fear in her eyes”. The riff and the words work really well together.
Step Back is a pro-choice number with a really catchy chorus in “Your body your mind your life is yours nobody can take that”. The mid-song break down and build up with a repetition of “take your religious politics get the fuck away from me” channels Rage Against The Machine with each line notching up the tension.
All The While attacks the government and its mishandling of the Covid crisis. The song ends with a suitably dark crunchy build up in the style of Amebix, providing the background to the resounding coda of “blood on their hands”. As it fades the soundscape switches to samples of news reports of the death toll. It has a dystopian feel but of course it is not fiction it is all too real. Snippets of samples from the last year underline how we have fucked over by our “leaders” over PPE, and the cash grab for contracts, all with eerie keyboards lurking underneath.
The closing message from a health worker is salient and powerful:
“The government have lied to us and they have to be held accountable, and we have seek justice for those families who’ve lost their loved ones. These ministers have blood on their hands. They have killed people and they’re still sitting in the same office and this has to change.”
As a way to finish an album, that’s what I call impactful.
CD and downloads will available from 16th April from Burning Flag’s bandcamp.
Users of Spotify can sign up in advance.
Words by Nathan Brown. Check out his Louder Than War Author Archive.