Chemical Threat: Vicious (Portswood Punx)
Released 27th Nov
Louder Than War is confronted by chainsaw guitar attacks from earnest South Coast DIY political punks on this 8 track offering.
Crawling from the rubble of Southampton’s DIY punk scene, Chemical Threat releases to date have primarily been a means to get gigs, but the cover and the recording quality of this new CD has the hallmarks and polish of a “proper” release whilst remaining on their own Portswood Punx label. They are among a number of bands and individuals trying to re-boot what was once a vibrant local scene by finding venues and putting on gigs. Consequently I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see them go from strength to strength and when I last saw them in October they were light years ahead of the same band only 6 months previously. If you caught their set at Rebellion in 2012, you seriously need to check them out again. As this CD shows, they have moved on.
The CD kicks off with International Murder Fund, the lack of subtlety in the title matched by the riff and raw up front guitar. “Insidious scum, the IMF” goes the chorus, followed by a one string solo that could easily have come from an Anti-Cimex or Mob 47 record, similar breaks appearing thoughout the 8 tracks. Guitarist Pintsize produces a sound is clearly influenced by Scandinavian thrashers Totalitar and 80s Japanese hardcore: we’re talking Husqvarna or Stihl chainsaw not Black & Decker hedge trimmer. Solid drumming with cymbals flying all round from Hoodwink combines with growly bass lines provided by Hobbsy to create a stable rhythm platform from which the singer, known only as Rev, launches his tirades against numerous injustices. As the band themselves say “Pissed off with being unemployed, skint and continually trodden into the dirt by the shit system they’ve created, this is our outlet to shout back about the issues that matter to us” and their choice of words tells me that they very much mean what they are shouting about. The gruff shouted vocals are reminiscent of Disorder around the time of their Perditon 12″, especially on Quality of Life and Religion. The singing is a vast improvement on previous releases, as is the quality of the recording overall. It is really bright and brings out the best Chemical Threat have to offer.
With all these comparisons you might think we are talking about a D-beat band but The Threat are frequently referred to as street punk or UK82. It’s a shit label and not much help. As far as I’m concerned the 82 punk scene in this country included bands from Chaos UK to GBH to Blitz to Discharge,Varukers et al and even The Exploited. That’s a wide old range. The truth is that Chemical Threat do fall somewhere in the middle of all these bands with a bit of Hardcore thrown in. Too many labels…..
There is some variety among the songs: backing vocals on the second track – the title track – bring an Agnostic Front thug appeal and throughout there are hints of the more acerbic side of New York Hardcore. I’m thinking bands like Verbal Abuse specifically. Poison Idea even come to mind in the way the bass and drums interact during the mid-section of Quality of Life when the guitar drops out.
Amid all the posers who think there is now something cool about eating bacon, it’s nice to see that some punks still give a shit about animals and Dine on Death is the Threat’s haikuesque contribution to the debate: “It doesn’t appear overnight/ Hours of suffering and torture/ Cows fed G.M. corn/ Infected shit leads to E.coli”.
Starting off with a sea shanty bassline, Media Whore soon speeds off toward the horizon as the outboard motor guitar kicks in. This is their take on modern celebrity obsessed tabloids and television channels. It’s also the catchy “singalongaChemicalThreat” moment with the “Go away, Go away, Go away” call and “Media Whore, Media Whore” response.
The closer, Another Maniac, has a riff straight from Rudimentary Peni with some guitar squeals that conjure up Sub-Pop. A veritable prog rock epic at 3 minutes with a stompy break down in the middle. Hardcore or street punk, you make your own mind up, it’s all punk to me. A classic 80’s style echoey vocals/feedback/demolished drumkit/dropped bass ending of this final track gives the impression they walked in, laid down their tracks and threw everything on the floor once they’d done the set.
Is this an LP or an EP? 8 tracks would be too many for a 7 inch so if it were on vinyl it would be a 12″ but clocking in at 15 minutes it would be on 45. These new fangled CD things really do throw the whole EP/12″/LP thing into turmoil. Perhaps yearning for the days of vinyl the CD is even pressed in the mock vinyl style – black rather than silver, with fake grooves and a label. Love it!
All words by Nathan Brown. You can read more from Nathan on LTW here.