108
18.61

Ten years ago, it was fashionable to break up. After all, it’s better to leave a good looking corpse then become a bloated shadow of your former self. In the past few years though, innovators from 90s hardcore (all strains of it), some of which imploded before their time, have decided that perhaps they weren’t that susceptible to the threat of stagnation, and that they can make better noise with their instruments being a little older and a little wiser. 108 though, never seemed to fear stagnation, as throughout the 90s they put forth controversial, visceral material which was always progressive, a prevalent motive on their comeback album A New Beat from a Dead Heart, from 2007.

Three years on and 18.61 comes into being. Conceived in just a weekend, every riff, scream, beat and moment sounds utterly painful, frantic and perversely unsettling. The seething, monstrous metallic hardcore they are known for is completely shelved in favour of a dryer, rawer sound, drawing more eclectic, alien influencing forces (particularly from the noise made by Steve Albini with Big Black).

Initially, the brevity and the twisted nature of the songs were a bit of a disappointment, especially in light of the recent efforts of fellow 90s legends Integrity and Starkweather. However, the frantic energy, gutsy humane honesty and seething venom that dripped from every second kept me having to hit play another time, trying to decipher the madness. It lead me (be it with patience) to realise that if a listener can understand one thing from this album, it’s that man, not machine should be the focal point of musical catharsis.

That alone, doesn’t guarantee great albums though.

To put it simply, 18.61 is not an easy album to approach, the twisted, broken riffs that form each piece seem to lack cohesion, groove, but more so, purpose, as if they are flailing about wildly without any real intent. To subscribe to this perception though would be a gross misunderstanding, as this is often not the case and because of the burning essence of the four humans that make this twenty three minute mantra nigh on impossible to simply dismiss and label the album as a failure. Take a piece like “Reduced,” which forces the players to take control of the contorting madness, pushing them to surge furiously with a gritty Black Flag vigour and locking into a thrashing, relentless rhythm. Its perfection, is its mangled way of playing, seemingly out of sync, it is anything but, and is rather a clever, deceiving construction.

“Fallen Angel,” has a similar modus operandi, but is colored with haunting, almost bluesy breaks and shimmering stabs of feedback before coalescing to drive it into the introductory syrupy crawl of “Mannequins.”Drummer Mike Justin (formerly of Unearth and then The Red Chord) then takes lead here, beating his kit savagely to pick up the pace sporadically before it reverts back to its drawling, soulful grind.

Somewhat expectedly, 108 shift the gears again, with the album’s closer “Early Funeral,” a ghosting dirge that feels akin to what Converge were doing on You Fail Me,  with “In Her Shadow,” and the overall atmosphere of that album as a whole. Unveiling itself slowly, it’s lead by vocalist Robert Fish’s solemn utterances, whilst being backed by gentle, folk like strumming. Joni Mitchell it isn’t, but rather a final humane raise of the middle finger from the band to the world.

As Deathwish have continued to show over the past seven to eight years, great music doesn’t need to follow tradition, and it doesn’t need to conform to genre limitations to be recognized and revered. 108 embody this spirit emphatically and whilst at first 18.61 can pass you by as a mangled mess of jumbled noise, seemingly unworthy of repeat spins, it does with time not only make more sense but becomes a potent reminder that the essence of the human spirit should not be buried in layers and layers of studio trickery.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Benjamin DeBlasi
August 30th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Jesse Wolf

    I love this album. Then again I love everything 108 has put out. Sweet review though man.


  2. Commented by: xbenx

    At first I hated it Jesse, but then, I saw sense after several spins, I’ll always prefer the classics, but this is a compelling album.


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