For Fans Of
The use of music for the cathartic release of rage and trauma has long resulted in some of our favourite LP’s. This rings particularly true for metal and hardcore, with the extremity of the music communicating the human experience with almost unparalleled rawness. Contemporary examples of this have included (but are certainly not limited to) Have Heart’s final LP ‘Song’s To Scream At The Sun’, Touche Amore’s devastating ‘Stage Four’ and, more locally, Vices’ (RIP) ’Now That We Have Seen That I’m Responsible’. These kinds of albums, as just three examples, use music as a captivating medium for their creators own struggles, desire’s and unsaid feelings.
On High Tension’s third LP, ‘Purge’, the Melbourne band do just this; entering a worthy new addition to such a list of emotionally powerful and confronting records. Written in response to front woman Karina Utomo’s feelings towards her home country of Indonesia – both it’s bloody history between 1965-1966, and her own experiences growing up in a country affected by inter-generational trauma – the ten tracks of ‘Purge’ explore some of the darkest parts of human nature. All set set against a scorching backdrop of brooding blackened hardcore.
Bite The Leash (Burn)‘ and ‘Ghost To Ghost‘ break new, heavier ground for a band that showed glimpses of brutality among their earlier punk roots, with new(ish) guitarist Mike Deslandes providing scintillating leads that tear across the bloodcurdling shrieks and relentless percussion of drummer Lauren Hammel. Despite this newfound sense of aggression, however, the catchy riff’s that made 2015’s ‘Bully’ so fascinating still rear their swampy heads here. ‘The Stench’ throws in a bluesy run for every piercing vocal shriek, adding some vintage shine to the blisteringly heavy machinery on offer. Likewise, the album’s harrowing title track throw’s up a riff that sounds like a beefed-up version of Mastodon’s more recent output, bouncing beautifully off the blackened tremolo’s that roar over the rest of the piece. For every bout of punk, there is some death and black metal to be had, and for every slice of hardcore, there’s some blues injected too.
More so than their previous work, ‘Purge’ feels like an authentic melting pot of heavy and outside influences; finally coming together in a way that, rather than seeming bizarre, is absolutely exhilarating.
Dynamically speaking, ‘Purge’ is for the better part a straight-shooting wall of hardcore noise. And it works! But perhaps the best moment of the record arrives with ‘Surrender’, a murky synth-anchored chapter of pure ambiance. The calm in the eye of the storm, ‘Surrender’ see’s Utomo pen some of her most vulnerable lyrics to date, delivered with an uneasy caution. It’s gripping moments like these that allow us, the audience, to sit back and appreciate the power of silence. Which is often just as, if not harder hitting than the LP’s most ferocious moments.
‘Surrender’ is also the moment that the veil drops for High Tension, baring the themes of the record front and center; no-longer protected by the distorted walls of guitars or the rumbling bass. These moments of vulnerability go a long way to contextualizing the rest of the album too, giving new life to some of the LP’s angriest moment’s. Of real note here is ‘Ular’, a faster and more traditional cut from the band, as well as the record’s opening lament of ‘Red White Shame’. The latter song of which sees Utomo grappling with the enormity of cultural alienation, genocide and the capacity of the bystander to blindly participate. While ‘Purge’ is by no means meant to solely be an educational history lesson, it most certainly captures the cultural and physical devastation felt by so many; with cut’s like these reaching almost cinematic levels of atmosphere and emotional effect.
‘Purge’ is a damn confronting listen, but one that captures the authentic anger, shame and confusion of an individual grappling with the demons of the past. Yet also that hope and justice can rise from these awful ashes, as the intent of closer ‘Rise’ seems to be. Musically, this is a welcome heavier change for the Melbourne outfit, placing High Tension at their most deadly in terms of songwriting, instrumentation, and performances. Thematically, the record also translates as a genuine exploration of rage and rebirth, a brutal purging of demons that’s resulted in not just High Tension’s strongest effort yet, but one of the year’s standout heavy records too. Get ready to learn and headbang along!
1. Red White Shame
2. Ghost To Ghost
4. Bite The Leash (Burn)
7. The Stench
8. The Legacy