No hardcore punk band ever needed any sense of ‘progress’ in their sound or style to be effective beyond a visceral enough attack and this is especially true for the vast array of powerful-but-generic European hardcore bands dotting the landscape of the last three decades; Those who’d exist well enough without ever reaching for more are abominant in their content state. Any sense of ‘tradition’ in punk rock is ideologically pathetic but, frankly speaking the most comfortable and engaging stuff often comes from the smallest, weakest tweaks to many well-established and subscribed to norms. What sticks and what doesn’t isn’t often up to the defiant imagination of listener or their perception of scene, style, time and place because punk is a music felt in the gut when it is approached from an honest place. To shake off the mired sloth of tradition and see experimentation as a doorway to greater human connection doesn’t have to denote ‘progress’ so much as it has potential to shake the eyes of zombified fools away from their screen-affixed leering towards the screaming, writhing world around them. København, Denmark hardcore punks Halshug have stabbed and bled-out their well built d-beat bodies for the sake of moving far beyond the self and into the realm of dreams; Not just dreams that’d hope for a different world free of societal master-slave relationships but, an honesty that only the divulgence of the subconscious could provide. On ‘Drøm’ Halshug push away from norms as they pull influence from numerous musical styles in hope of plugging deeper into a consciousness that’d connect all walks of life.
The pieces you’d expect to fit together just won’t this time around. You’ll see the venerable Southern Lord imprint, the crust/hardcore punk label, Halshug‘s Scandinavian origins and prepare yourself for… Well, exactly what Halshug had built up in creation of their previous album ‘Sort Sind’ (2016). A ‘modern’ d-beat influenced hardcore punk record that had some dirge to it, the dark sort of stuff you’d expect from Copenhagen’s present day K-town hardcore punk alumnus like Death Token but with an aggression closer to that of Victims. Only some of this applies to ‘Drøm’. Sure, if you enjoyed that previous record no doubt you’ll recognize the shouts and the punching weight of Halshug in spirit but, I hear deeper spikes of Bl’ast, Amebix, and Born Against amongst the post-punk, noise, and metallic d-beat influences of ‘Drøm’. You’re still getting a head-first half hour hardcore punk record but, each of the ten tracks here invoke some measure of experimentation or unexpected moment to illustrate a deeper theme in protest of a deterministic reality.
Just as Kaleidoscope continues to distort New York hardcore through noise punk and old school influenced mutations so here it’d seem that Halshug have found a similarly freeing point of view in terms of European hardcore that isn’t at all reliant on d-beaten tropes for personality. If nothing else ‘Drøm’ is a spacious and atmospheric experience beyond expectation with hall-filling noise/drone (“02.47”) pieces and sometimes The Men-esque hardcore/noise rock clanging (“Dø Igen”) songs creating an unsafe space for the traditionalist’s expectations to very slowly die within. “Fantasi” in particular takes me back to discovering Bl’ast‘s ‘It’s in My Blood’ and marveling at their extension of the noisome discordant verve that characterized later Black Flag; In my mind this is at least on that level and easily recommended to that broader fandom as much as it sometimes resembles later 2000’s Condominium as they edged closer to noise rock. You could certainly consider all of those details a heavy amount of gilding for an already great, groovy hardcore punk record that riffs pretty hard and slides into various moods throughout. Hell you’d probably enjoy yourself just as much all the same, the full listen jogs by fast and hits upon plenty of standout moments.
Side B is where the concrete underfoot really begins to shatter as the flailing saxophone solo of “Tænk På Dig Selv” and the Penderecki creep of “Et Andet Sted” that escalates towards a psychedelic post-punked doom fever dream within the five minute instrumental “Illusion” which grinds and shimmers ‘Drøm’ to a close. The progression of the album is balanced enough but the heavier, punchier hardcore is mostly front-loaded leaving the full listen feeling like a dream (or memory) that becomes fuzzier the more you’d try to remember it. The more elusive and dissolute that Halshug become the more they escape my own memory with specifics but when considering this arc from start to finish it is all the more memorable as an experience. The sequencing of it all is highly effective in invoking the multi-faceted theme of ‘Drøm’. I fell into this record immediately, at first because it didn’t seem all that experimental or daring and then even more so once I realized that it actually was. Because it has had such legs in my own rotation and continues to demand listens I can highly recommend this third Halshug full-length for those more inclined towards experimental hardcore punk. For preview I’d recommend the hard-hitting “Dø Igen” paired with the easy groove and saxophone-enriched wail of “Tænk På Dig Selv” to start, if you’re not there yet toss “02.47” in the mix for a glimpse into the unknown.
Corruption as a primitive madness. 4.0/5.0
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