There are two facets to Bones that’ll allow you to grasp their intent well in advance of hearing a note. Firstly, there’s the name. Bones—the cold hard stripped-down residue left over from the dead. And secondly, look at that line-up: Jon Necromancer, Carcass Chris and Joe Warlord. Even if you didn’t know a thing about Bones, simply reading those names on the back of the album cover would assure you that this has to be some seriously crushing old-school metal.
I’m not going to pretend Bones’ debut is groundbreaking, but then that’s not the point. The point of Bones (and they make a pretty fucking compelling case) is that with so few limits to metal these days—as bands over-intellectualize, over-produce and carefully calculate their careers—it’s essential you’re reminded of its rudimentary roots. The task of evaluating one’s position in the marketplace, and devising intricate instrumental scales, is for other bands. Bones just want you to get on board for a rollicking ride.
Formed from the ashes of Chicago’s Usurper, a not so dissimilar outfit—who admittedly I’ve only heard scant sound bites of—Bones seemed to have pared things back even further, heading down an essentially rockier, muddier slope. Comparisons to Venom, Master and Motorhead have been thrown around (there’s a familiar strain of distorted rock bent to the will of musicians intent on reducing chords to primal units) but it would be on the crustier punk end of the spectrum that they draw their most obvious influences, not necessarily from the overall aesthetics, but definitely in the charging, take-no-prisoners style.
Blasting out the gate with “March of the Dead”, a furious intro, with plenty of old-school crusty hardcore mixed into its deathly bite, Bones head on up the road with the sort of crank-fuelled debauched barbarity that concentrates on remaining musically murderous. “Bloodlust” and “Bitch” follow, both galloping out of the stable with battering abandon, and while the majority of the album passes by quickly, with a series of enraged tracks, it’s not all vim and vigor. Bones slow it down on a couple of dirtier numbers: “666” while hardly a plod, offers a decent grinding contrast.
Recorded live, and engineered by Sanford Parker, the result is suitably raw. As to be expected with any live recording there are a few slight glitches, but that’s no problem at all because this is primitive, visceral stuff, and it’s been mixed to highlight the loudness and gusto rather than any technical wizardry.
Nobody is going to accuse Bones of doing anything wholly original; there’s a plethora of heads-down death/thrash outfits out there. But Bones succeed where others have failed because there’s a real sense of sincerity to their debut. There’s a clear enthusiasm for the nostalgic idea that a powerhouse trio can knock out solid tunes and build a following through hard work and great performances.
Bones’ debut is a metal veterans delight. Crafted to be played extremely loud, without a hint of nuance or overt technicality—not that those elements are welcome or needed here—this is simply old-school metal cooked up to perfection. They’ve got the hooks and the momentum, and if Bones are a throwback so be it. I’d gladly take a hit for being too old-school if I get to wallow about in this death ‘n’ roll swamp.