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Clocking in at a lean, mean 23 minutes, ‘Forced to Regress’, the debut album from prolific Byron Bay tribe Shackles immediately comes across like a furious, unapologetic assault on ambience, tranquility and all things pure and innocuous. Tearing through 18 tracks of grim, thrash-influenced powerviolence savagery – the longest of which goes for what feels like a virtually protracted two and a half minutes – the band wrestles with the raw, bleak misery of isolation to masterfully capture visceral, sonic depictions of unadulterated dread.
Wasting no time nor bothering with niceties, opener ‘Blood and Bone’ is exactly the kind of urgent gut-punch you’d expect to kick things off – in just under 60 seconds, it’s a decidedly appropriate introduction to the series of abrupt, pissed off aural diatribes that make up ‘Forced to Regress‘. Tracks like ‘Cast Out’ and ‘Sedative’ showcase riffwork that’s equally as catchy as it is pummeling, channeling 80’s thrash metal through a grind/powerviolence conduit. Meanwhile, the album’s rhythm section provides a level of stability while keeping with the general theme of chaos. Of special note is the drumming – deservedly pronounced, it’s a frenzied succession of impossibly fast, dynamic percussion, as demonstrated best on tracks such as ‘Toasted’ and ‘Obsolete’. Searing, misanthropic vocals drive the songs forward with trademark aggression.
Though plenty of acts that share in Shackles’ ilk have a tendency to disguise average songwriting with blunt force brutality, ‘Forced to Regress’ demonstrates a creative ingenuity that sets the band apart from the wealth of groups whose repertoire rests on the laurels of loud, fast, pissed off and vulgar. While taking obvious cues from forefathers like Infest and Crossed Out, the band demonstrate more subtle nods to doom and punk stylings to craft their own distinctive voice.
While ‘Forced to Regress’ is doubtless one of the most outright barbaric local releases thus far this year, it’s far from simplistic. A roaring goliath of a record that sees an enormous step up from what were already one of the country’s most compelling names in hardcore, it demonstrates the band’s bloodthirsty viciousness and engaging songwriting in equal measure.
1. Blood and Bone
4. No Gender
8. Cast Out
13. Self Substantiate
14. Sudden Turn
16. Always a Slave
18. Demented Resolve