The sickening power of nostalgia is no double-edged sword, just a nasty shove into the dumpster of self-reflection and a horrid reminder of who you are in your own eyes. Though it might momentarily infantilize the delusional afflicted the great sum of reminiscence has a powerful effect upon identity, memory, and capacity for emotional highs and lows and oh man– You’ll understand when you’re older but, when it hits in waves and interconnected layers it might be a week before you’ve survived it. Case in point, the twenty sixth anniversary of Entombed‘s world-burning ‘Wolverine Blues’ hit in early October this year and while the number of years shouldn’t matter it sent my mind reeling back to being that death metal tween so hard that a wild wave of neuronal stuttering bolted me towards the realization that it was a Swedish death metal band that’d most influenced my bad fuckin’ taste in rock music. Remember The Hellacopters, the bonus disc for ‘To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth’, and all of those covers (Bad Brains, Black Sabbath, Venom, etc.)? How about ‘Same Difference’? Right, puritanical death metal fans hated this era of the band but I bought all of it twice over when I was in high school. That is who I am, really in a nutshell, the guy who loves the deepest weirdest niche of everything but I’m not going to treat any of it like a religion; Fuck all of that. So, where does that nostalgia hit? I’d bought the second record from Ulf Cederlund‘s (Disfear, Alpha Safari, etc.) noise rock/punk side project Haystack soon after ‘Same Difference’ and felt like I’d hit the jackpot in terms of context. As in, how on earth Entombed had gone from ‘Wolverine Blues’ to ‘Uprising’ in the space of 6-7 years. I felt like an outsider, a weirdo who knew too much, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t feel great.
Beyond that, ‘Slave Me’ (1998) was a conduit for all of the Unsane, Quicksand and Helmet I’d been exposed to during the majority of the 90’s but from a different perspective. It might’ve just been one of a hundred or so records that’d convinced me this whole noise rock thing was going to work out for me as a listener and it sticks in my mind for that reason. Then every band I’ve mentioned thus far died at once, for years. Haystack was the slowest to come back with what, twenty one years since their second record? ‘The Sacrifice’ hits in 2019 as an “Oh, fuck it.” moment, a chance to just go for it whole hog and push out some disaffected fucked up power-trio rock music and not overthink any of it. So, did it work out? Yeah, I mean certain parts of this record sound more like ‘Same Difference’ than I’d expected, just with a relaxed pair of shoulders and a more earnest vocal. Cederlund once again collaborates with Jonas Lundberg (Nurse, A-Bombs, The Maggots) and pulls in bassist Patrik Thorngren (The Horror The Horror) from the ol’ Alpha Safari days and their goal was to jam together, write a grip of songs as they came naturally, and push through the process fast without overthinking it and imitating themselves. The recording and mixing process took a total of four days; Sure they’re old pros and came prepared but there is the sense that they’d rushed it knowing any wrinkles would only belabor pressure of getting back into that mindset two decades later.
At their rawest, room-shaking best Haystack recapture the 90’s aggro rock meets punk they’d came from but this third time around a load of psychedelic blues-metal, post-punk, and a stoney Pixies-esque lilt (“Nut”), soak up whatever angst might’ve threatened to define ‘The Sacrifice’. It is a jam from start to finish; A flitting feat between frustration, anxiety, joy, depression and Cederlund‘s lagom vocal is just introverted enough to avoid any cock-rocking weirdness along the way. I guess the only issue I could see with still-standing fandom is that it might feel a few shades too tonally variant to match up with where Haystack were at back in 1998, that’ll be a personal decision. Still, ‘The Sacrifice’ is plenty full of shouting and swinging riffs that’ll please the open-minded noise rock fan of today without ever resorting to post-hardcore for style points.
‘The Sacrifice’ was a slow grower for me not only because I wasn’t sure what to make of it, in or out of context, but for the sake of the amorphous bent of the full listen. Garage-metallic, noise punked, blues-broken and occasionally post-rocking spirits all add up to the kind of rock record I’m all about, the sort of thing I can’t compartmentalize or define without going back for several dips into its warmth. I’m still not sure there is a reasonable way to write Haystack into a box and I appreciate that almost as much as the songwriting within, off-the-cuff or not. The final stage of nostalgia? ‘The Sacrifice’ pulls me right back to writing for punk magazines in the late 90’s, having all of the ‘metal’ shit thrown at me and loving the traversal between metal, punk, and various other forms of rock music along the way. The heavy blues meets post-punk spank of “Enveloped in Darkness”, the swinging roar of the title track, the garage shaking noise rock of “Alone” (and opener “I’ve Seen Things”) and the smarmy power-pop dirge of “Nut” all make for a fantastic ride between spaces rarely visited in the same space. Maybe I’ve just been dazed by all of the reminiscing I’ve done lately, and while it is a unique trigger I’m sure the heavy rock and noise rock troops will see the value of returning to the world that Haystack creates. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d recommend starting with “I’ve Seen Things” and “The Sacrifice” for a memorable first impression and then dig a bit deeper with the duo of “Alone” and “Nut”.
Devouring the conscience. 3.75/5.0
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