EXPANDER – Neuropunk Boostergang (2020)REVIEW

Burn down the whole ten-function creepjoint! Micron by micron the corp-funded black marketeers supplant entire bodies, a new breed of hack-fed sarariman gilded with insane surgical techniques — Bodies void of rules, neon-stained in their escape from death, refurbished as new and eternally willing employees making new money and starting newer, tighter gangs. Goons! Shaikujin! Wearing at least four brains apiece with corporate merger’d tattoos and static windows for eyes… A hundred and five years old between their gear, implants and… They’ve never blinked once, the sexless terminal ghoul-fiends! Cyanide thrashers razing arctic riffs and bio-technologic chiphead grindpunks in between ’em have set their minds to a new arcology all their own, to live sustainable and forever in defiance of gold’s piss-stink shackles, New Yen-ridden exchanges with false poli and the brutality of constant heatwaves aimed at innocent meat. Three years is long enough! The third module from New Austin, Texascorp refugees Expander calls the crew to action with ‘Neuropunk Boostergang‘, psychedelic-jacked and heavily stimmed thrashpunk for the new era; A classless, defunded and debased Seventh World beneath toxic orange and silver-streaked skies — Poisonous, but free.

Slot and run, fools! You couldn’t possibly have missed the first album (‘Endless Computer‘, 2017) from this Texan avant-faced crossover/metalpunk quartet a few years back as it’d been powerful enough to hit everyone from Voivod-bridged skulkers, the tech-thrash/crossover Venn-diagram’d base, Kvelertak hounds, and anyone remotely into metalpunk hybridization or sci-fi thrash heaviness. They’d hit me a bit later in the year so the record didn’t get a shot at the album of the year list but I’d since discovered their Night Rhythm Records imprint via their Mi’gauss and Mefitis LP issues and kinda hooked into the band from there, particularly loving their first EP (‘Laws of Power‘, 2015) in hindsight. Beyond the curation, style, and impressive recording quality the frantic metalpunk spirit of the band is an uncommon, incomparable thing. Think of double-sped Bl’ast if they were cranked to Power Trip or Black Breath levels of heavy and surfing a wet and exotic hardcore punk driver, echoing ‘Rrröööaaarrr’-edged corridors of traumatized thrashpunk riffs at an extreme (but not too extreme) metal level of crunchiness. Expander launch themselves forward with every swipe of the guitar no matter what they’re attempting as a unit and ‘Neuropunk Boostergang’ only serves to deepen their impeccable thread of metallic cyberpunk music without disrupting any previously stated core purpose in the slightest. For my own taste it is iteration and sophistication that never amounts to any serious alienation along the way, a similar-yet-improved powerhouse that any sophomore record should aspire to be.

Ten minutes longer than ‘Endless Computer’ but somehow striking me as shorter upon first impression, ‘Neuropunk Boostergang’ is hardcore death metallic punk Neuromancer for the Toxic Holocaust-surged generation of thrashers, bridging classic thrash n’ rollercoasters that still maintain Expander‘s own point of view with a neo circuit surfing techno-meritocracy where the only currency accepted is hyper-manic but groovin’ riffs and wailing psychedelic lead guitar runs. Vocals are bellowed, roared and gnashed a bit harder, riffs are pushing for sharper angles — Elektro-punk vignettes and psychotropic framing sizzle with the silverblood fumes of solder hitting the iron. I get the sense that this envelope of time-warp experienced is for the sake of a tighter, higher beat-per-minute action despite a lot of the rhythm guitar shapes lining up with the previous album on several occasions; The effect is something new, something familiar, and some wild new horizons Expander seems entirely capable of communicating in smaller bursts as their fleet and oft furious attack maintains its relentless momentum throughout. By the time “Cryptosteal” rolls around there is a momentary feeling of déjà vu in terms of guitar textures, beats, and those thrilling lead guitar runs but my mind could not resolve this as a negative simply because ‘Neuropunk Boostergang’ is hardcore punk at heart, surely if the circuitry, chemical addiction, and all manner of biotech adaptations were stripped from its flesh the body would survive but Expander are so much more for their unreal enhancements picked up along the way. More importantly, it all feels different and freshened enough that folks who over-spun ‘Endless Computer’ won’t feel like they’ve bought the same album twice as there is some sense of progress made in terms of compositions that feature hooks or ranting moments that set the mind unto new avenues and narratives along the way.

The syrupy, thousand-pedal stomping sluice of warbling tonal gush that kicks off opener “Wretched Warez” introduces the vibe of the album perfectly, a mangled mind ripping and grinding down an endless stairway of groove-driven motion that strikes and slashes as threats appear along the way. It is exciting in the same way that Lightning Bolt have been in recent years, abrupt but always circular in any downward spiral of groove and frantic electric action presented. “Hyper-Flesh Aedificium” brings that immediate psychic thrash bop that made ‘Endless Computer’ so ineffable back in 2017 but warps into this god-sized effects-driven guitar lead and eventually resorts to the sort of clangorous noise rock’d chord hammering that comes to define the ‘Neuropunk Boostergang’ experience, it just rips in the most satisfying and relentless way. The highlights along the way are going to be a matter of preference without a ton of divisive choices made on the part of Expander; For my own taste the Red Fang circa 2013 whip n’ crack of “Rejunkulizer” is a fine example of that sweet indefinable ‘self’ that the band create on this second album that truly pushes the boundaries into something even more unique than the debut was, but only just slightly more. Sure, “Waste Ranger” and “Obsoletor” are pretty similar at their core but this’d been why I’d suggest ‘Neuropunk Boostergang’ is a hardcore punk record at heart that has reached a yet uncontrollable point of unstable mutation. The entertainment lies in the way they’ve bent reality, nonetheless.

If you’re out to die for a cause then knowing the force of the movement still bears the heart and head of its origin is some great comfort to keep going. In this sense the second Expander record is a great success, an amplified signature and bigger ideas set along that familiar wire. If you’re just out for something different, metalpunk doesn’t have another band exactly like this. If you’re just out for variety, mutation, claustrophobic thrash cult riff-chunking and whatnot I’d actually say ‘Neuropunk Boostergang’ has such a free-spirited slap to its ~43 minute spin most folks won’t be able to drift wherever it goes rather than plainly focus on the cut of the riffs or the specs of its innards. Easy entry, momentum-based performance, shocking divergence from all norms, everything Expander has done to date deserves high praise and this is their best realized record to date. A high recommendation.

High recommendation

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Neuropunk Boostergang
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records
RELEASE DATE:August 21st, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
Thrash Metal

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