After a play through (or 10), you’d be forgiven for mistaking New York City’s Ekulu for a slept-on classic.
The 3-song demo is bracingly immediate. Opener “The Ruminator” starts with a razor-sharp thrash riff attack Nuclear Assault wish they’d written. The crossover hallmarks quickly dissolve into a decidedly more hardcore direction as the vocals kick in. Eschewing the higher register that plagues early crossover, the singer opts instead for a barbed, unhinged approach that conjures images of the band rehearsing in a cavern.
There’s a painstaking assembly to “The Ruminator”, as it reads as three distinct but complimentary acts. The Bay Area assault and the half-time groove stomp ultimately give way to a maelstrom of blown-out bass atop devastatingly heavy tom hits.
One track in and I’m picking my jaw up off the floor. There’s a litany of reference points. Immediately, it calls to mind Forbidden with a decidedly New York edge. Though it at times recalls Cro-Mags at their most feral, the musicality on display here is staggeringly more nuanced. Take Offense, a more current landmark, isn’t a million miles away, yet Ekulu makes music with a singular focus and incessantly refined vision. It delicately toes the line between technical and reckless, planting it firmly on the hardcore side of the yard.
“Melt the Ice” finds Ekulu doubling down on their strengths and upping the ante with near-soloing guitar that sidesteps histrionics and serves the song exceedingly well. Instead, they go full Leeway or Killing Time, the pummeling thrashterpiece unraveling into their most hardcore leaning sound, a groove-laden chug commanding movement. The last :40 dangerously threatened to turn my commute into a gridlocked circle pit (leave your Cobra Kai bullshit at home).
“S.O.D. (Sanctuary of Depression)” ends the demo in a veritable epic fashion, clicking in at over five minutes. Despite its lengthy runtime, nary a second is wasted and it still ends up feeling economical compared to similar attempts by inferior bands. Featuring a guest spot from the curiosly enigmatic “Emerald Emmett Morris”, Ekulu again displays their amazing chops, injecting a surprisingly tasteful melodic vocal hook. This ultimately benefits the hardcore thrash that bookends the song, making the razor sharp edges far more sinister. Atop it all, there’s a solo that wouldn’t sound out of place on Ride the Lightning.
Ekulu is carving a solitary path. Thrash and hardcore have long made for perfect bedfellows. We’re currently enjoying a variety of bands who’ve managed to take the influence and sound completely unique: Primal Rite, Foreseen, Power Trip, Red Death, and a multitude of others. Ekulu has, in one fell swoop, managed to jump the line and shop with giants. Y’all have been warned. Commit the demo to memory before they level your town.
One look at the flyer for their first show and you’ll know I’m not making false claims. Lest I overthink it and become “The Ruminator," I’ll leave you to thrash.