PSYCHO – Vulture Church (2021)REVIEW

Sawed-open skulled and throbbing like a trio of electrified sponges Boston, Massachusetts-borne legends Psycho had a fire lit beneath their brains the moment the rapid emergence, and brutally extreme evolution, of hardcore punk hit their ears in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Formed in 1981 and notably do-it-yourself for the next two decades beyond, the 40 year history of these folks’ primal whip is easily summed: “late 80’s Boston hardcore outliers, early 90’s thrashcore attack, and bloody grindcore beyond” but the journey from then ’til now is far too rich with a thousand reasons to dig deeper if you are, like me, a huge fan of 80’s hardcore punk and the trip toward metalpunk as an absurdist, apocalyptic reaction to idealism. If you have this education under your belt already you can readily meet up with ’em in the present day and quickly key into the ruckus of album number four, ‘Vulture Church‘, you’ll find a bit of everything they’ve ever done housed within the ugly-good time on offer. If you don’t have a clue otherwise here’s your chance to get one.

The double-edged sword of being Psycho in the 80’s was I guess that they’d only seemed to fit in with Boston hardcore when it’d been a weirdo punk movement and they sure didn’t when it was a preachy jock-lead fight club. This allowed them to hold onto a more obscure cachet in the hardcore (back then “thrash” was the right label) underground as they became known for shocking lyrics, speed, and a sound that was initially notable for its clear influences from British street punk and Los Angeles (and adjacent) hardcore songwriting allowing for an unfocused style presented with signature rhythms. This 1981-1988 version of Psycho is a favorite piece of the Boston hardcore story from my point of view. No doubt I could wax nostalgic over ‘Hosebags From Hell‘ (1986) and ‘You Love Us… You Hate Us…‘ (1988) for pages here but it’d pull a bit too much focus away from the trio’s open-minded evolution over the years, skipping over their requisite crossover/thrash metal phase and straight into the extreme metal of the time with their own take on grindcore starting with the ‘Riches and Fame‘ (1991) 10″ EP.

Psycho‘s already extreme and not-so politically correct sense of humor fit right into this intense shift — Keep in mind some these guys formed a side-project named Bulge and put out a 7″ with GG Allin on vocals around this time, so if you were offended then or potentially now your reaction is probably the point. For folks into classic grindcore this is arguably where things get interesting as the strange pitch-shifted vocals on the ‘Mass Consumption’ 7″ (via Thrash Records of all places) coincided with a wild run of splits with Meat Shits, Blood, Anal Cunt, Agathocles and several others throughout the 90’s. Despite not having released a full-length during this time it is yet notable that Psycho had basically been there kicking their own path through hardcore punk throughout its most vital idealism in the 1980’s and did the same within grindcore throughout the 1990’s. It is a rare and notable feat to survive this sort of history and remain relatively steadfast for so long and I suppose it made sense that they’d basically chilled out from 1998-2008 before revitalizing the band, releasing several compilations and splits before landing in partnership with Polish label Selfmadegod for their third full-length ‘Chainsaw Priest‘ in 2014. Much like ‘Vulture Church’ today that album was a mix of where the band had been and where they are at now which meant grunting thrashcore and its logical connection to their own version of early grindcore but all of this without the catchiness of the ’81-’88 side of the band. ‘Vulture Church’ caught my ear and largely stuck with me beyond first impressions because it presents every side of the band to some degree, even reprising some of the sing-along qualities of the past (see also: “Meat Market”, “Military Mind”, “Basis of My Lifestyle”), while bringing some new ideas to the table instead.

The major complaint I’d had stepping away from ‘Chainsaw Priest’ was that it didn’t sound like a Psycho release from the perspective of an idiot like me who’d be happiest listening to 80’s punk and metal ’til I die. If you can relate, ‘Vulture Church’ will probably make an easier connection overall. Opener “South of the Border” sounds like Charlie Infection is behind the kit, the crooked lead guitar mess in the last half of the song has the right idea and it feels like the kind of music you’d hear walking into cigarette stinking dive with bad lighting on a Saturday night. “Animal Boy” gets us all the way there and the nostalgia-ridden part of my brain is sated by a song that wouldn’t have been out of place on either of Psycho‘s first two full-lengths. They haven’t left behind the 1-2 minute growling grindcore battery in place since the early 90’s but evolved it into precise bouts of mania, usually framing ’em with samples and short narrative songs like the first preview song and title track “Vulture Church” a song which does a fine job of connecting the dots between the full history of the band, save the punk bop of their first two EPs. At that point I’m impressed, satisfied and sold on this sound but we’re not even halfway to the finish line yet.

“Life Lost” is the sort of hardcore punk song that I’ve been obsessed with since puberty hit, fast and simple percussive songwriting with an animalistic bash to its delivery, blunt and effective bursts of honest physical expression. Tempering this energy with sarcastic and swinging rock parody and pure 80’s bulldozer grind lands this album along the lines of Dead Horse, (early) Old Lady Drivers, Chronical Diarrhoea and a very small subset of worthwhile bands presenting these styles intertwined and having fun with it. There are a couple of pieces I’d probably cut a minute off, such as “Louder Than God” which is more or less a doom metal riff shoved around for five minutes, but the half hour listen is never more an obstruction to their flow of ideas. Plenty of memorable riffs, a few ear-catching samples, and a constantly flitting ADHD presentation set Psycho in a pretty damned worthy headspace so many years later. Listening to this record has been a damned good time, I wouldn’t ask or expect anything more, or less, from these guys so ‘Vulture Church’. Not only does it hold ground for its cumulative musical value and step up beyond the prior record but its prompting of a re-tread through their discography has only reinforced their status in my mind as one of those obscure anomalies which rewards those who’re willing to dig to the bottom of the bin for the good stuff idiots overlook. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Vulture Church
RELEASE DATE:September 24th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Selfmadegod Store
GENRE(S):Hardcore Punk,

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