The Pacific Northwest has long laid claim to the banner for all things crust. Enter Portland’s Rigorous Institution, the boundary smashing weirdo punks I’m here to laud.
Off the back of their summer of 2019 Penitent EP, fall saw them release yet another, in the form of The Coming of the Terror EP. Released this past October via the appropriately “so secretive it borders on invisibly anonymous” Whisper In Darkness Records, this slab is best snagged via Bandcamp, as the label’s mailing address is as unfindable as their Lovecraftian namesake’s Cthulhu.
With a visual and sonic aesthetic that mines the darkened crypts of Hellhammer, Discharge, and early Celtic Frost, they manage to meld it with crust and metallic punk in a way I can’t say I’ve heard before. With the template of primitive, proto-black metal and a vocalist that clearly went to the same school of Lemmy that begat Amebix, Driller Killer, Inepsy, etc., Rigorous Institution pulls from unexpected places.
There are touches of the macabre Northwest resignation of hometown heroes Dead Moon, whom they also share visual nods. The band I hear the most is Electro Hippies, not a reference I thought I’d be throwing around in 2020. They share an “anything goes” policy with them that excites in ways most don’t. For a band that self-describes as “synth crust” and “descendant angel crust”, you’d be right in asserting you’re in for a wild ride.
The song of the day herein is “World of Illusion”, which fittingly boasts multiple tricks, the first of which is the length. Though it barely misses the three minute mark, there’s an epic swell to the proceedings that takes lesser acts twice as long to achieve. The other “trick” they employ is the illusion of simplicity. There’s a shocking amount of subtlety for a band so inherently chaotic and loud. Elsewhere, they employ things as far afield as dungeon synth (not gonna lie, had to look that up) and unsettling bits of chanting.
The melodies are off kilter and disorienting flurries of D-beat that rely heavily on busy floor toms and exceedingly treble-heavy, tinny riffing. The bass throbs nauseatingly and there’s a circular rhythmic repetition that conjures visions of a violent tidal-wave, bringing with it the ocean’s full arsenal. They play the song in increasingly desperate fashion, building a baseline unease as if we’re inside a storm’s eye. For a song that, essentially, gallops along at the same pace, it exhilarates for the duration. I’ve likely failed to communicate just how batshit the song itself is, but trust me when I say there’s some absolutely gonzo shit in here.
Lyrically, it plays as both doomsday soothsayer or carnival barker, playfully daring us to peer into the hall of mirrors. The pairing of furious pace to the vague warnings of “before it’s too late” and the aforementioned carnival attraction is infectious. Rigorous Institution would fit as well on the midway as they would in the cemetery, replete with the clattering of toppled tombstones. Just make sure you buckle up before hopping on this possessed Tilt-A-Whirl or ride along with the four horsemen.
Again, you’re not going to find much on the band after a cursory Google glance. I implore you to seek out both of the act’s 2019 EPs. They’re on some different shit and I can’t recommend it enough. Should you find the address of the label’s darkened hovel, give me a shout.
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