So it’s 2017, which means we’ll be drowning all year in “it was 40 years ago” milestones commemorating punk rock’s year zero. As cynical, seen-it-all punks ask what has become of their beloved genre’s musical legacy, the more open-minded will acknowledge it endures these days in the bones of extreme heavy metal, as demonstrated by two new and contrasting releases.
From Dallas, Power Trip reignites the flames of “crossover,” the late-80s style that wielded the turbo-charged two-beat and bellowed vocals of hardcore punk to the spewing solos and cartoon apocalypse of thrash metal. Truth be told, crossover soon became a joyless slog, but Power Trip keep the spark alive with an audible sense of glee at their mastery of the form. On “Firing Squad,” terse refrain whiplashes into a Slayer-esque shred, and I find myself cracking a smirk and throwing the horns. The mix on Power Trip’s new album Nightmare Logic is itself adrenalizing, thanks to hot-shot metal producer (and Sumerlands guitarist) Arthur Rizk.
By the 1990s, crossover’s inevitable synthesis gave way to metal’s nourishment by a diverse set of sonic and stylistic gestures, most notably Discharge’s no-frills buzzsaw din; a low-fidelity analog aesthetic; Napalm Death’s CD-skip blast beats; and the manic, poop-your-pants vocal style of DGAF crustpunks. These innovations are now so baked into the DNA of 21st-century black and death metal, it’s pedantic and even churlish to point out their sometimes forgotten origins. And yet when I hear the astonishing, sinister force of lo-fi death metallers like Oakland’s Funeral Chant, it’s quickly evident that this music simply would not exist there but for punk. (Is that the trebly, spaghetti-western tone of Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray I hear in that solo?) As we brace ourselves for clickbait celebrations of every great punk album and single released in 1977, I for one will admire the thousand flowers it let bloom in extreme metal.
Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic is out now on Southern Lord Records.
Find Funeral Chant’s debut EP on Bandcamp.