A rotten bag of skin. A sack of unleathered and putrefying flesh bulges full with clicking and gnashing locusts before you. You, plague eater, know all of these jaw-clenching smells well enough as you creep forward slobbering with excitement and begin to fiddle with the twine of human hair that’d been used to merge sewn-together silhouettes of the not so freshly flayed. The anxiety of the horde within the meat-sack echoes through the parking garage as you prod and pull at their cage, the stink of rot filling your untrimmed fingernails with the flesh they’d shave from the tightly bound bulge. Finally the knot is loose and the plague lets fly as a cannon of pestilence sprays its viral load upon your palate and punches through to your sinuses. You’re after more than the taste of your own blood, though, the dead insects, their mounded feces and the half-chewed maggots are your reward and that blood is mere seasoning for the feast ahead. On this scavenger hunt for the freshly bagged gifts of the carrion-eaters the jenkem-esque high creates a hallucinatory euphoria and with only apocalypse ahead the mind can only slip into a dream-like version of the past as the protein-rich bugs and putrid rot drip from your toothless grin. There were things to argue about back then, trees to hug and principals that could give even the most detached ape a reason to exist well through adulthood. Eventually only the most feral remained and those who’d hood their savagery with the cloak of normalcy and leadership would shape society into a heaping mass of death and depravity. Even the most impossible skull-kicking strike of depression resultant from a noxious gas-strangled hallucination of your dire past is euphoria as you sniff out the next bag of skin, chasing the craftsman’s sack for its nourishing gifts of a time when hope mattered to you no matter how much you insisted upon nihilism. The mania of today, the shit-browned skies and eye-melting heat that force us indoors further forces human society to internalize their torment and when it bursts out into the streets and towards the final button press, make sure you’re wearing your swimsuit because the H-bomb is that last chance to tan you’ll ever see. Ghent, Belgium centric cult Vonnis see beyond the veil and come prepared for the impending nuclear ‘Bikini Season’ with no limitations, and without meaning or regard for mankind on their debut full-length. These young men of today come clean as post-human within and what they’d create only with contempt is a collection of knives in the gut of every fool-assed corpse who left a dead world for them to live in.
The final pirate radio broadcast left for the ruins of humanity will absolutely be enacted by the strongest and strangest among us, the experimental hardcore mutant, and though they’re young there is no mistaking a cockroach amidst a sea of hungry worms. Vonnis are something else entirely, not a 90’s fun-core bop like Turnstile or a rollicking rock band in disguise like Kvelertak, but a punch of matte black-metallic hardcore fed through post-hardcore and post-metal structures with no reason to ever stand in one place for long. The world had ended long before they were ever born and the breed of apocalyptic hardcore they infuse is unmistakably punk and not mosh-metallic yet, it breathes with the powerfully adapted lungs of post-millennium kin. It is a step beyond the established works of Totem Skin, Joy or Young and in the Way that touches upon some of that irradiated dirt seen and tasted before. Any comparison becomes a fool’s errand as the album begins to sway feverishly between atmospheric crust, elevated hardcore punk, noisecore, and full on post-black metal moments within the longer form compositions. It all flows together into a related morass of self-expression without any self-consciousness holding the feeling of the record back.
You might’ve already wondered what the hell I’m talking about if you’d already pressed play on the opener “Into the Hive” as the first few minutes of the song feature a Godflesh-like dirge that doesn’t give away a hint of their style until the last 45 second of the track. You’ve already been through a bit of a blender by the time the wobbling bass guitar of the title track hits and I’d say those first three tracks are indicative of the tirelessly detailed creativity that went into this freak show of a hardcore punk record. “Ojos Brilliantes” is an unexpected tonal shift, Vonnis aren’t going for a subtle influence of extreme metal (as in Martyrdöd) or necessarily an equal hybrid (as in early Ancst) but rather a fairly unhindered black metal song that’d feel right at home in a Ghent or Utretcht atmospheric black metal bill. The second ‘black metal’ track “Evil.Again” is a hybridization though, and a strong concept in terms of black metal aesthetic that builds into an alternating state with an ‘atmospheric’ hardcore riff until the song exits with a trip to outer space. The majority of the album explores the fluidity of modern black metal guitar and applies it to hardcore structures beyond expectation and the album conjures no complaints. Yes, that includes “Love Letters, Never Sent” which features rap artist O.P.K. though I wouldn’t want a full album of that personally, it adds some variety to their freely moving and fluid style of modern hardcore.
Vonnis are such a bad acid trip that they end up being good time and having fun with this fluid extreme metal influenced record. Not every song feels meticulous or as polished as it could be but that is some of the charm of the record, it has too many ideas to handle and the sense of movement builds enough momentum that it all works for the full listen. Though there is no shortage of ambition within the greater sphere of European hardcore today I’d say ‘Bikini Season’ stands out to me as something defiant to the point of good taste and a sense of brutality enough that the ‘blackened hardcore’ tag works well for them. Highly recommended, particularly to fans of experimental hardcore and post-hardcore. For preview I’d suggest starting with “REPEAT://DELETE” and “Ojos Brillantes” which show two important sides of the same coin and then “Doppelganger” for quick hit of speed.
In contempt of life. 3.75/5.0
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