Friday, January 6, 2012

New Record! Age of Collapse: Burden of Beast

Review # 59
Artist: Age of Collapse
Title: Burden of Beast
Format: LP
Label: Aborted Society Records
Year: 2011
Songs: 7

Happy New Year, readers!

I've been trying to finish up my "B" LPs for a while now, but I just keep on buying "A" records and having to backtrack. I've actually passed up a couple of "A" records that I wanted lately, because I don't want to back up again, at least until I get on to another letter of the alphabet. But I couldn't pass on the new Age of Collapse LP. I've been into this San Diego based band for a couple of years now, ever since I first saw them play at the now defunct vegan restaurant Squid & Ink and picked up their excellent split album with Warscroll. My band had the privilege of opening for Age of Collapse on Tuesday of this week, and after hearing the new material in their set, there was simply no way I could pass up their new LP (not that I really planned to).

I'll put this in simple terms and then elaborate: If you like crust at all, go get this as soon as you can, because this record is phenomenal.

Age of Collapse demonstrates with their new LP Burden of Beast that they are one of the best bands today playing in the crust punk genre. Their music is intense and spirited, but unlike so many punk rock bands, they refuse to trade trade proficiency and innovation for energy and passion. This band manages to escape that devil's bargain that so many bands fall prey to. They are as precise as any metal band and inventive as any prog or experimental band, yet manage to hold on to all the passion, energy, and excitement of the best hardcore bands. This record is the best of both worlds. Add to that that it is beautifully packaged clear vinyl and includes a free MP3 download of the album and you have no reason not to pick up this fantastic LP.

The music here shows a clear Neurosis influence, and listening to it, I also hear what appears to be an Iron Maiden influence in some of the lead guitar lines. Tempo changes abound, reminding me of some of the better crust and hardcore bands from the late 1990s (e.g. Botch). Melodic yet crushing bass lines weave in and out of the guitars, adding another level of sophistication to the music. Desperate, roaring vocals are backed with higher, shrieking backing vocals. The songs alternate between morose, trudging slow parts and moments of such intense speed that I am reminded of bands like Stack, Spazz, and Capitalist Casualties. Judicious use of guitar effects other than distortion create a layered sound without veering into shoegazey territory, and precise drumming with occasional hints of a tribal style pound out furious rhythms. This record really has the best off everything that crust punk can be.

The lyrics are very good too. The songs on this record speak out against environmental devastation, vivisection, and the confines that technological society impose on all our lives, and does so in a way that avoids sloganeering and mostly steers clear of cliche. The songs often use stories to make a point rather than simply saying: "it's bad to shoot wolves from helicopters," or "it's bad to kill elephants for ivory." And, to top it all off, the writing at times verges on poetic. Not in a crappy high school poetry sort of way, either. The lyrics are articulate, well crafted, and compelling. It is clear that as much care was invested in the lyrical content of these songs as was invested in crafting the music of these songs.

Burden of Beast is, in my view, one of the best records to come out in 2011. It came out so late in the year that I expect it missed a lot of people's top 10 lists, but I'll say it again: if you like crust punk at all, this record is a must. It's powerful, compelling, and interesting from beginning to end. It demonstrates what punk rock can be when placed in the hands of creative and competent musicians. And on top of that, they're a nice bunch of folks.

I'll stop gushing now.

Age of Collapse has a bandcamp site. If you haven't heard this album, go listen to these songs now.

Total songs listened: 738

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