Aswang, Say Grace (Kanak Attack Records, 2023)

The recently launched Kanak Attack Records, a label co-helmed by the impossibly industrious punk Kevin Tit, aims to give some shine to deserving bands in Hawaii.

The label’s inaugural tape release comes courtesy of Honolulu upstarts Aswang.

By the time you read this, the band will likely be on the eve of their release show, so pause and go book a flight to “The Town.” As a side note, a deep dive into the band’s moniker is well worth your time. It had me gloriously lost in the world of Filipino cryptids. 

Say Grace is a taut and ferocious 5-song set. The opening salvo mines the grand tradition of dubbing the intro, well, “Intro.” Backed with the band name referencing track as its back half, you’re gonna wanna keep your wits about you. The band lays back for the first minute or so and forms an oasis built around an impossibly sentence sample.

Alas, much like their namesake, Aswang is only lying in wait. As soon as the complacency sets in and the guard comes down, they lunge, all frothing and gnashed teeth. 

After said intro, “Aswang” bursts into being sounding absolutely feral. Increasingly sinister, the tempo build mimics being stalked by a shape shifter and, when the instruments clatter into life, it’s too late. The band’s sound is a tough one to pin down, but they dabble in everything from straightforward hardcore and d-beat to violently chaotic punk with weirdo tendencies.

It’s when they embrace their wilder tendencies that things truly elevate. Also adept at the old pace change, Aswang's sense of dynamics is thrilling. At just north of a minute, the following track “In the Dark” is a speed trial blitz of hard charging punk traditionalism that litters the background with unhinged bits of noise. 

The high point for me is the centerpiece. “Clifford” clocks in a bit over three minutes, which is ample time for the band to drop some bonkers tape manipulation that seamlessly bleeds into disorienting but crushing groove. The song would be an embarrassment of riches in the hands of lesser bands, but Aswang tastefully meld dope riffs and a sickeningly inventive bass sound.  

Aswang strangle their instruments with an attack matched only by my Chicago faves in Porcupine and their ilk. Again, they splatter their sonic canvas with flecks of unrecognizable bits of noise. The slow down around the midway point is a tremendous bit of dynamism and again shows a band that can stitch together a monster from these seemingly disparate parts.

The final minute is a threatening bit of sludgy abuse that somehow sounds like blood dripping from the ceiling. It’s a cavernous and weird trick to employ, but Aswang do it with aplomb. 

Photo: leiiphoto

Beckoned into being on the back of barking dogs “I’m Losing It” the vocals on this one are so bellicose and pissed vocals that it threatens to implode. Again, I’m an absolute fucking mark for bass tone and this, my friends, fucking rules. The band pulls as much from oldies like Void, Die Kruezen, and Rorschach as it does the more adventurous end of modern day hardcore. 

The closer and title track “Say Grace” is certainly not the feel good hit of the summer. the opening sample sounds like Satan’s playlist were he driving an ice cream truck. Just shy of the minute mark, the band unleashes their fiercest riff of the collection. It’s my holy shit moment of the EP. Again, though, Aswang doesn’t play the expected. They inexplicably but expertly switch gears into something else entirely.

The closing bits of the track seem to open up into a clearer and louder production. The band’s parting gift is a second, somehow more titanic riff. This shit crushes. 

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