I was stoked to discover that Auckland-based band Bridge Burner had released their debut Mantras of Self Loathing EP last week. It might seem odd to be so joyful about the release of an EP that features markedly gloomy and harsh music. But that’s obviously all part of the inherent and often paradoxical appeal of extreme metal or hard-hitting punk. We simply love strident and inhospitable music, and Mantras of Self Loathing definitely makes you feel pretty damn good about enjoying the bitter and brutal noise therein.
One of the prime reasons I was thrilled to hear Mantras of Self Loathing in the first place was because all the music on Bridge Burner’s debut was composed by former Graves guitarist Josh Hughes. Graves are one of those go-to bands when you need a dose of turbo-speed nihilistic noise to help you get through another day. But Graves also broke up earlier this year, a few months after releasing their very impressive Fides Ad Nauseam album.
Seeing Graves meet their demise was sad and frustrating. Sad because the band produced vitriolic punk ’n’ metal barrages that placed intensity and belligerence right up front in the mix. (And it’s always lamentable to watch a band that balances cathartic and confrontational music so well being laid to rest.) It was also frustrating to see Graves break up because Fides Ad Nauseam featured such a relentless bombardment of razor-edged tunes. And that all pointed to enormous creative potential for the band’s future endeavours.
Still, as it turns out, with Bridge Burner’s arrival, there’s no real need to fret about Graves’ demise anymore. I mean, Graves’ albums will always be there to listen to––at least until WWIII arrives, to pound us all into dust. And Bridge Burner also deal in breakneck and feral music that features an amalgam of brute-force punk and metal.
In fact, if you enjoyed the way that Graves perfectly soundtracked all that apocalyptic mayhem and misery happening outside your window, then you’re likely to find the bludgeoning tone and decidedly bleak outlook of Mantras of Self Loathing appealing as well. The EP’s chaotic stew of metal, crust, grindcore, and hardcore is reminiscent of the abrasive aesthetic that Graves explored. But it would be wrong to say that Bridge Burner are simply Graves reincarnated.
Sure, like Graves, Bridge Burner attack with unremitting ferocity. But Mantras of Self Loathing is burlier than any of Graves’ recordings. It’s thicker. Weightier in the low end. And more rhythmically metal. Kudos has to go to Cam Sinclair and Angus Jones who tracked the EP, and to Tim Shann for his mixing and mastering duties, because everything sounds so savage and wickedly barbed. And Mantras of Self Loathing is assuredly as heavy as breaking every cardinal sin, twice over.
A hefty dose of crusty and distorting death metal greets you on Mantras of Self Loathing’s eponymous opening track. Which adds a lot of tonnage and a sawtoothed edge to “Mantras of Self Loathing” as it transforms from a doomy stomp to a devastating bombardment and back again. Fans of bands such as Nails, Mammoth Grinder, Trap Them and their assorted punk/metal kin will find a lot to enjoy on blitzkrieg crossover tracks like “Open Hand/Iron Fist” and “Amoral”. And there’s a heavy hybrid accent throughout the EP’s four tracks where death metal’s punch meets punk rock’s bite, often at grindcore’s pace.
A highlight of Mantras of Self Loathing is heard in frontman Ben Read’s soul-scouring vocal phrasings. Read has spent time fronting death metal luminaries Ulcerate in the past, and he’s currently the lead singer for melodic death metal bands The Mark of Man and In Dread Response. He spits and screams over Hughes’ white-knuckled riffs with a mix of passion and purgatorial rage. Read’s recitals are ruthless, and his lyrical storehouse is full of psychological torment and fury, and that’s certainly matched by Bridge Burner’s caustic musical expressions.
Problems with Mantras of Self Loathing?Sure, there’s the obvious one: the EP only features four songs. Although, you’d have to admit, when it comes to complaints, wanting to hear more isn’t exactly a negative gripe. Mantras of Self Loathing might only provide around 12 minutes of grinding guitars, frenzied percussion, and vicious vocals. But that’s more than enough hostile noise to mark the EP as a formidable opening salvo from Bridge Burner. It’s certainly great to see that Hughes has plenty more high-powered ammunition in his creative armoury. And fingers crossed that means there’s plenty more bleak and barbaric music to come from Bridge Burner in the future.
As it stands, Mantras of Self Loathing is highly recommended. A vinyl version of the EP is due for release in early 2016. But you can grab a digital copy from Bandcamp today.
I suggest you do that. Right now. Before everything ends.
(Note: there’s another upcoming release you’ll want to keep an eye out for next year that features Hughes on guitar and a bunch of other New Zealand punk rock stalwarts. Love Mess’ self-titled 7” is due out in early 2016. And you can check out the track below for the first taste of Love Mess’ impending cacophony.)