Musket Hawk
Upside of Sick

Though Maryland is often most known for its legendary punk/hardcore and doom scenes, there’s just about every kind of kick ass music imaginable coming from its fertile creative soil.  Mutated sludgy crust/grinders Musket Hawk are a prime example of the variance emanating from the state with their 3rd and most vicious full-length yet, Upside of Sick.  This is fuckin’ good stuff with gut-wrenching, often succinct tunes combining gale force turbulence tremors and churning seasickness into a total upset stomach assault of switching speeds and tempos.  These sickos shove the listener’s face in a barf bag full of good bad times and filthy, power trio onslaughts where every player gets a chance to steer the group’s overall sound.

Opener “Roidhead Swindler” offers up illegally juiced muscle in the form of dissonant, airplane glue doom guitar figures and wormy mid-tempo grooves that ram Grief’s bipolar escapades into Clagg and Molehill’s forceful, more infectious than the clap downer blues.  They never remain in one mode for long as the song catches air on Marty’s highspeed but minimally chorded hardcore punk damage.  The rhythm section lays down an audio minefield comprised of Jason’s taut, dry drumming full of lightning fast snare fills and d-beat thrashing as bassist Gary maintains a limber, audible stack of his own caustic riff detonations (sending the tune collapsing into a double-bass doom death curmudgeon at the 2:52 mark).  Raw, dirty dealing dual vocals from Marty and Gary run an apocalyptic gamut between bloody red screams caught somewhere in the midst of classic crust punk and black metal sneering with some clogged commode death-y growls completing the rest of the sewage smeared picture.  Throughout I’m reminded of the most lauded and nasty sludge bands the genre has seen in addition to twitchier outfits like Goatsblood, Dystopia, Leechmilk, His Hero is Gone, Cruevo and Tragedy.  “Hexagon” unloads a squelching mash-up of feedback and ruthless hardcore punk riffing in its early going that derails into a trainwreck of workmanlike blasts and sawblade guitars with the double-team vocals going off at the same time.  Old school UK crust is all over this one until bulldozing bluesy elements take over the entire trio of musicians with some brief bits of classic rockin’ licks even making an appearance before frantic grindcore trauma returns for the final lights out.

Bloated, overdriven sleaze grooves make up the meat of “Dios Mios’” molten romp.  There’s a crunchy, Texas-bred shuffle beat happening on the snare at all times as the riffing dips heavily into the 4/4 boogie trough.  Scathing vocal screeches permeate the verses, saving most of the deathier stuff for the choruses and the chugging, palm-muted bridge section.  Even the crustier punk bursts are drenched in hard rock’s anchoring weight.  “Punk Rock Ruined my Life’s” bashing grind action is peppered by rabid cymbal clinks and teetering blasts that consistently swerve into Swedish/UK d-beat rampage.  Even the guitar work has a penchant for vintage power-chord charges that were very much the tools utilized by the thrash and hardcore punk elders since the beginning of time.  This tune is paired well with the equally brief chaos of “Bad Times’” renegade ascending/descending riffs that revolve around a simple but effective set of chord changes as the rhythm section provides a galloping second half full of choppy double-bass lurches and ocean deep bass lines.  Closer “Uncouth” is far and away the record’s longest jam at over 7 minutes in length.  Unbridled sludge disgust is laced from front to back cover but breaks off free-form into feedback and Human Remains-esque jazzy blasting that intersperses the vomiting heaviness with playful freak outs that ratchet-up to mincing, crust heavy circle pit surgery.  It will get your neck working so hard you’ll be in danger of unhinging it from your spine.  Ritualistic tom-tom pounding and sparse atmospheric guitar melodies jangle out the track’s second half with some effective use of shade and texture for a mountainous piece of fully formed metallurgy.

Upside of Sick should be a delight to all crust, grind and sludge heads out there.  It adheres to tradition in all of the right places then jettisons standard procedure whenever it damn well pleases.  I’ve enjoyed all of Musket Hawk’s previous releases but this one is hitting me harder and heavier than the rest of the discography by elevating the band’s sound to a genre apex full of treacherous twists and turns.  This is really worth a pick-up if this type of terror is your personal cup of Datura tea.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
May 31st, 2019

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