For Fans Of
Unexpected is the only way to describe XTRMST’s self titled debut. Davey Havok and Jade Puget – AFI’s frontman and guitarist respectively – have created a brash and unapologetic ode to their choice of shirking substances. Unless fans have been around since the very beginning of AFI, it’s likely they will be ostracised from XTRMST’s brand of sound – Decemberunderground this most certainly is not.
Labelling themselves as ‘straight-edge hardcore’, Havok and Puget waste no time in making clear that they’re substance free. With lines such as, “I deny the high of heaven” and “your passive generation lives for degeneration”, this project is evidently Havok’s way of letting loose the dogs of war and it shows in every song on the album. Extremist even expressly states “we are at war!” with thunderous double kicks, returns to slow picked guitar and then continues on this militant path for the rest of the song. However, for the XTRMST experience in one track, the outstanding choice would be Dirty Nails where Steve Aoki’s (once a member of hardcore band This Machine Kills) influence through serving as their label head is most recognisable. The song lurches around uneasily, with Havok screaming, “I am the intolerant” above nauseous electronic effects and frenzied shredding from Puget. Most songs cap at 2:30 so it’s hard for them to outstay their welcome, and with just enough variety – such as the bass heavy The Breed – to stay enjoyable.
Hearing Havok return to screaming is like welcoming an old friend, and since each main vocal part was recorded in one take, it’s impressive how well the frontman keeps the album together. Puget’s guitar riffs may become stale at times, with typical ‘hardcore’ chord progression, but songs such as the effect-laden Merciless vary the sound enough to keep the lines fresh. Natural drums as opposed to their electronic incarnations might have kept the “DIY” aspect more alive than on this self-titled, but they’re more than acceptable replacements when guided under the master hand of Dim Mak Records.
XTRMST is unabashed anger and both Puget and Havok are unapologetic about using this record as catharsis. The sound of both musician’s is largely confronting but ultimately energising. Occasionally preachy but never excessive, the duo have made it clear that a life lived straight edge is as rewarding as with substance.
1. Words For the Unwanted
3. Social Deathplay
8. The Breed
10. The Way
11. Swallow Your God
12. Dirty Nails
14. Coward Bow Your Head