Batten down the hatches, y’all, and aim your hull westward. Dead Man’s Chest, the long-running UKHC band, is back with a 3-song 7” via Upstate Records. The New York label, typically purveyors of Northeastern punishment, have here instead set their sights on London. Released last month, the bruisers' most recent collection is a must-have for treasure hunters of hardcore’s heavier end.
Having honed their craft since their 2008 inception, the newest incarnation of Dead Man’s Chest is found on top form. The EP kicks off with the title track and ends on a note perfect Bolt Thrower cover, that is, if Karl and Co. wrote mosh riffs. Sandwiched between these indispensable bangers is “United States of Me” which, for this listener, is the true jewel of the record.
Dead Man’s Chest are no strangers to a challenge, setting their aspirations aloft in an earnest attempt to pen a classic. This time around, the band looked to three landmark albums for inspiration: Perseverance, Burn My Eyes, and Reign in Blood. Hyperbole or not, aiming to complete a Mt. Rushmore of sorts with the aforementioned company is certainly worth shooting their proverbial shot:
The opening salvo of the aforementioned track opens mid-stride, mining a deathgrind sound familiar to fans of Misery Index and their rotten family tree. After setting the table viciously, it gives way to a riff plucked straight outta the Hanneman playbook, lending “United States of Me” the speed of first wave thrash.
The fusion of hardcore and death metal is one endlessly done but, when it’s to this standard, feels undeniable and urgent.
The guitars are impossibly loud, crisp, and thicker than black tar. They also inject their crossover hardcore with elements of NYHC attitude and '90s metalcore in a seamless manner, with riffs quickly giving way to one of a multitude of devastating breakdowns. The song feels almost split into separate movements, the second of which starts out on Big 4 heroics before evolving fluidly into thunderous double bass sections and a ferocious mid-paced beatdown. In the final minute or so, the band rides a serpentine guitar part with a notably louder and up front bass attack that threatens with a low end menace akin to late '90s pugilistic hardcore.
Vocally, I was taken aback in much the same way as when I first heard the vein-popping, bellicose bellow of Trail of Lies’ Tom Dom. Somehow still managing clarity, the force is overly intimidating, intense, and immediate. They employ a number of rad flourishes that point to a deeper understanding of the studio and an awareness of the extra efforts that makes this shit truly memorable. At certain points, they punctuate the end of stanzas with the faint echoes of vocal takes, each line bleeding into the next.
As you’d imagine for something this sonically ill-tempered, the lyrics bemoan English society’s modern ills, which are eerily similar to ours Stateside. Peep isolated lines like “slit the wrist of the state”, “rats eat rats”, or “the real enemy is me…” to get a taste of their harrowing take on what reads like Hardcore Mad Libs.
Cheers to Upstate for bridging the scenes separated by the heavy seas. UKHC forever. One family.
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