EXIL – Warning (2021)REVIEW

Even in the most progressive advanced economies, redistribution and education are already unable to fully absorb the pressure of widening income inequality before taxes and transfers. Lower-hanging fruits beckon in developing countries, but fiscal constraints remain strong. There does not seem to be an easy way to vote, regulate, or teach our way to significantly greater equality. […] So far as we can tell, environments that were free from major violent shocks and their broader repercussions hardly ever witnessed major compressions of inequality. Will the future be any different?” Walter Scheidel, The Great Leveler

The bar is high but the artform is lowEr… ground-level shouting, ripping fast songs set with purpose in every nook of a late 80’s mold, a “looks easy, sounds easy, isn’t easy” attention to detail that comes from a rehearsal-built kinetically reactive muscle memory where cues are few and timing is everything: What the classics-minded head wants from a hardcore punk record in 2021 ain’t easy and most of what lands halfway decent these days is either an ugly mutation away from simplicity, just fuckin’ ‘One Voice’ riffs at half speed, or some rare magic from veterans who still have the wrist action to pull off something timeless. If you’ve got time to get your hands dirty and pick through the viscera Umeå-minded but Stockholm-based hardcore punk quartet EXIL have the substance and sustenance beyond “good bones” on this catchy-assed hooligan of a debut full-length ‘Warning‘.

The big draw here for folks in the know is a back to a not-too basic format for musicians you should recognize from DS-13 at the very least and maybe some name-drops for fans of Swedish grindcore (Axis of Despair, Livet som insats) and several other, mostly Umeå hardcore, bands otherwise. What I mean by that is we’re getting the sort of record folks were doing best in the already nostalgic generational uprising of late 90’s/early 2000’s hardcore where broadening first worldview was met with a revival of 80’s hardcore punk profundity and simplicity in mind. Think circa 1999, Good Riddance covering Battalion of Saints for their “throwback” record ‘Operation Phoenix’ and you’re basically cued into what this record barks out beyond their own Swedish tendency for melodicism and precision, Boston-sized vocals, and a perfect bass guitar bang throughout. That was a life-changing era in terms of my own personal development (which was more early-to-mid 90’s…) so, I am biased in the sense that this sound immediately spoke to me, slapping the ol’ brain two decades back when re-discovering the progenitors two decades before that. Do I know some kind of secret handshake and/or lifecode based on listening to this sort of hardcore punk forever? Not really, the appeal and the stuff that really sticks is all absolutely straight forward: Energy, intelligence, physical attack and finesse. Any additional interest I could drum up comes from their point of view, the studly render/sound design of ‘Warning’ and stroking sweet look of the record itself.

Don’t call it Swedish hardcore, and metal this ain’t.Exil are up front about the fact that this album is a reaction to their surroundings and the greater globe, their collaboration happened when it did, not due to the COVID-19 pandemic but because their bodies and minds willed ‘Warning’ into existence -despite- circumstance which struck them at an inopportune time. Whatever, though, right? This is music made in canned heat, caged brains howling at the moon, primal mid-80’s blaze-core that stops short of speed metal and clangs out deeply angled and decisively cut hardcore punk songs that are short, direct but frilled up with guitar solos, lead-ins, change-ups, and well basically anything but a breakdown as the ~26 minute record blazes by. There is an ounce of Slapshot here, a whiff of Totalitär there, but most of this album goes for a sublime economy of impact where simplicity is implied and the big pit-wrestler moments hit just slightly more often than the not-so subtle hooks. The attack is just right, the mechanics are brilliantly set and none of it is so damn derivative that I lose focus from what Exil are barking on about. If the ideal balance of 80’s hardcore punk in your fuzziest recollection lands somewhere between the best of Boston -and- L.A. this record is going to be a damned satisfying harmonizer.

“Every man for himself” means you’ll die alone. — Culture shoved out to make room for the ill-shepherded “middle class” lie, the joyless pursuit of a meager cost of living, the impoverishment of civilization as a “get mine” attitude manifests as truly sickening greed, poisonous individualism, and they run with it in several directions from there as a giant brain in a jar dictates the woes of humanity for the sake of unification. Angry as all of this is in terms of its bark the message is not nihilistic and generally well-spoken (er, shouted) via vocals from T. B. whom is best known from UX Vileheads I suppose, he kind of verges on overbearing as the opener/title track “Warning” bursts out with some gang-shouts that are staggered but the rest of the record keeps up with plenty of breaks in between the barking to impress. If you’re not one for a shout-a-thon hardcore punk record they’ve made sure this isn’t blunt-faced headache material in that sense. Otherwise I don’t have any huge notes that aren’t already implied. The Audiosiege mastering was the right choice and made this one sound gigantic, the artwork from Joe BB is stare-worthy for the amount of detail and symbolism meshed into its collage and the record hits just right at under a half hour. Don’t bust into Exil‘s saloon expecting marked originality, sloppy catharses, or a “retro” pandering experience but a damned good hardcore punk record without a second of bullshit, not a single throwaway song or unfocused moment. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (82/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Armageddon Label
RELEASE DATE:July 23rd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Hardcore Punk

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