A bombardment of safety-crackin’, torch spraying, hairspray in the eyes and whip smart noise-punk howling by way of cleverly mutated heavy rock swings Portland, Oregon-area trio Gaytheist are too much. Over the top, loud as Hell, flailing their early 80’s arena rock noodling and ‘eyes shut’ intense post-hardcore swooning to the tune of ‘Double Nickels on a Dime’-sized energy in a post-heroin soaked freak rock world, the high-brained low-brow spirit of the band achieves nuclear impetus on their fifth full-length. Coming from an always fun, mostly goofin’ kinda band that you need jamming your “technically Alberta arts district” house party, ‘How Long Have I Been on Fire?’ bears some stunning impact by way of joyous, repeatable, punk-mangled artfully tunesome songs.
Formed at the outset of 2011 the trio broke out of the gates with their own brand of intensity, a noisome free-wheeling bunch of pun-enjoyers having way too much fun with their gig. Built on unsteadily worshiped thrones, the style of those first few records couldn’t be properly summed up but their third record (‘Hold Me...But Not So Tight‘, 2013) had everything stuffed into one convenient bottle: Chunky ‘Suplex‘-era Karp skittering, squirts of Jawbox circa ’92 and the resultant revisionist post-hardcore ah via late 90’s Lowercase, the wallop and spark moderne of Big Business, and a blend of 90’s rock stoney rubbin’ on ya noise-punk weight a la Cherubs. Three full-lengths in three years, with plenty more in between and after, the momentum was hot enough that Gaytheist had seemingly hit a wall heading up the stairs around 2017. ‘Let’s Jam Again Soon‘ (2017) saw the band freshened up with a new found metallic spark cranking their intensity far beyond past releases. This’d be the the, so far (not including the split with Rabbits), the most meaningful leap forward and point of serious work for the band, serving as a meaningful precursor to the bigger-swinging intent of ‘How Long Have I Been on Fire?’.
The big change’d come by way of all members now localizing in the Portland, Oregon area and putting some serious prep time into a vibrant weekend-blasted recording session that captured their high-energy live presence whilst prettying up the edges with bigger vocal layers, more leads, and a bit more breathing room than ‘Let’s Jam Again Soon’ had allowed. I can’t emphasize enough that Gaytheist are doing their own thing, sweatpants boner at the hardware store noise rock, not-so-self-serving post-hardcore catharses with guitar heroics throughout, while always giving the room something to grow on in terms of lyrics. If you’re already a fan and you’re wondering if they’ve grown beyond their goofs, metalcore band name puns etc. on the first couple records (‘Pentagrams Are Super!‘, ‘Stealth Beats‘) yeah, ‘How Long Have I Been on Fire?’ is protest music delivered with a smirk, a biting but never too bitter castration that has fun chewing on the nards of politics en bouche. In fact they’ve laid it on so thick, much like Child Bite‘s latest, that I’d become overwhelmed considering which parts to dig into.
“Dental Records” certainly has its narrative, inspiring some serious thought about not only lives on display online but also desensitization of cruel, callous death en masse through the last few decades, my take anyhow. “It’s Reigning Men” couldn’t be more clear with its core statement and it doesn’t take much more than a punchy butt-stuffin’ sing-along like “Border Patrol” to sell me as a listener but hey, I’m not going to spoil the onion’s layers explaining each piece. The gist is that they’ve had a massive amount of fun spanking on societal delusions, mirroring the absurdity of taboo, and that confrontational yet entirely clever touch is all the more profound when delivered with such charming, cranked to ten power-pop energetics. I’m not just in it for the snark n’ roll though as “The Dark Deep” and “Let the Wrong One Out” out are a huge one-two combo and a perfect introduction to the bigger, biggest version of Gaytheist coming out on this fifth record. Huge guitar hooks, group-sung choruses, and banging noise rock basslines (w/their best bass tone yet) all sell the unique sonic personality of the trio from the get-go.
There are a few dumpers along the way, though. I dunno if the Floor-esque vocal cadence on major verses of “All Choices End in Death” entirely works near the end of the record, I’d almost have flipped it over to the end of Side A. I’d tend to circle back around to the start of the album when “Dropping Shit Loads of Truthbombs into a Swirling Pool of Knowledge” hit, not a huge misstep but it adds to the “Here’s the just OK songs” feeling of the album’s exit. They don’t run out of steam at the end but you can feel the sweaty delirium setting in, which is fine because ‘How Long Have I Been on Fire?’ is a lot. This level of over the top sound, cleverest subversion, and life-affirming celebration of black sheep defiance is rarely expressed so pure n’ earnest in modern rock spheres much less all in one bulging package. If you’re a fan of 90’s big muff-in’ noise rock, punk rock-sauced post-hardcore, and open to a mutant far more wild than either of those old avenues might suggest I’d give moderately high recommendation of Gaytheist‘s fifth album, anyone else’d probably just fuck off.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
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