Flashback (eleven years) to college: sitting in a friend's apartment, drinking 40s and watching the “Over The Edge” WWF pay-per-view event. Off-camera, wrestler Blue Blazer (Owen Hart) falls 78 feet to his death while attempting an aerial stunt. Nothing will sober you up faster than death itself; I'll never forget that moment. But what does the band at hand have to do with the man? Besides a predilection for death, I don't have the slightest fucking idea.
If my first encounter with Owen Hart (the band) had been on paper, I would have been entirely incredulous. The PR spiel describes a metal body welded to a hardcore chassis, dropping names like Converge, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Dropdead and Carpathian Forest. Lucky for me, I threw on the album without the slightest bit of foreknowledge. The instrumental intro track, “I Nameless” and subsequent “44 Black” basically say it all. This is the real deal, a breathless metal annihilation and manic distillation of the finest riffs you'll hear. Owen Hart radiate a belligerent alacrity, as if they'd been limbering up in your headphones, preparing to assault your ears before you even hit play.
It's tempting to sit with Earth Control and try to analyze the influences at work. But every time I play the album I'm swept up in its rabid flow. It's so well constructed that it deflects attempts to parse its contents. I stop caring if a particular passage evokes Deicide, or Converge, or Brutal Truth, or Dissection. In other hands this might be a desultory disaster. Very few bands succeed in melding such a palpably diverse ancestry (Fuck the Facts come to mind), but Owen Hart do it convincingly. This is metal boiled down to riffs, speed and ebullient absurdity.
It's important to note that this is no flippy floppy, de-tuned affair. All the guitar work here is firmly within the Slayer register. The dual guitar attack of Tony Wolfe and Rusty Graeff is razor sharp, juggling fine-edged knives of melody, dissonance, speed and groove. Riffs romp ably through realms of thrash, grind, hardcore and death, serving up classical bits of acoustic and clean guitar along the way. The solos that appear throughout the album are entirely complementary, whipping up memorable bits of searing shred.
Brian Skiffington's nimble drumming is a key to Earth Control's cohesion, seamlessly gluing this all together with a steady hand while transmitting an unhinged rage. The raw and dry production does a great service to Owen Hart's sound, leaving the focus squarely on the guitars while giving Timm Trust room to ply his vocal miscreancy.
Timm Trust's voice alternates between a familiar, squawking hardcore scream and deeper death growls. The style is a perfect match for these tunes, delivering an excoriating vehemence. The lyrical bent of the album should be immediately evident from the song titles, which include “Poor Straight White Guy,” “Fuck Morrisey, Fuck the Smiths, Fuck the Cure,” and “Evolution's a Fact, Jack.” Missives on corruption, murder, apocalypse, drug use and suicide are delivered with a wry smile and biting wit.
Owen Hart have crafted a top-notch debut that will smash your face and leave you with a toothless smile. If you're anything like me, it will also cause uncontrollable headbanging. I suspect a great many people will love Earth Control, and just as many will doubt its “trueness.” I can assure you it's truly pummeling, and I'm looking forward to a chance to see Owen Hart play live. In the end, only hearing is believing, so head over to Brooklyn Vegan or the band's Myspace to witness a track for yourself.
Earth Control is out January 18th on Vitriol Records.