Album Review: VICTIMS The Horse and Sparrow Theory
In case you ever wanted a quick synopsis about the real trouble facing our planet today and how we’re pretty much screwed, the song “We Fail” off the latest album from the Swedish D-beat institution, Victims, lays it out. It’s all about climate change and overpopulation, people. And if you’re still in the skeptic or denier category or wondering why the opinion of a bunch of punk rockers on the topic of geo-enviro-politics should be entertained, know that “We Fail” is part epic, doom-laden chainsaw crawl and part sample taken from a conference presentation given by Brigadier General Stephen Cheney of USMC about the impact of climate change on food and migration patterns. According to Mr. Cheney, if you think we have problems now, just wait 20 years.
So, we’re doomed. The rogering and shafting of humanity and our home by humanity and our home is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. While we wait for the end, we might as well indulge in excellent D-beat crusty hardcore telling us how doomed we are.
Originally forming in 1997, Stockholm’s Victims has powered their way through seven albums of a mostly warp-speed take on everyone’s favourite clip-clopping rhythmic pattern resplendent with a lunging ‘n’ loose feel akin to Fast Eddie Clark-era Motorhead in the way guitarists Jon Lindqvist and Gareth Smith volley crusty chord progressions and deftly flick their wrists in the name of flourishes and that rocking twang. The title alone of their newest album hints at maturity with the potential to create a divide between those fans who want the band to continue to do an AC/DC routine versus a veteran band understandably looking to do something different.
This difference can be heard from the off. The lead-off title track utilizes familiar-sounding elements in a somewhat unfamiliar manner. A sparse offering of power chords is delivered with generous spacing and sustain over which the pulse of the song is driven by Johan Eriksson’s bark and drummer Andy Henriksson’s graceful up-tempo D-beat swing. As the song progresses, spidery melodic guitars complement an easing up on the ‘HM-2-ness’ – yes, I just invented a new descriptive term – one would customarily expect.
This is the long-winded way of saying that Victims is still firmly beholden to the sound and style of bands like Tragedy, From Ashes Rise, and Wolfbrigade/Wolfpack, but they deconstruct their roots while maintaining reverence. The result is a rebuilding of the model with just enough external flair that keeps things interesting and exciting. The pinpointed precision with which they attack the basic building blocks of crusty hardcore makes “The Birth of Tragedy” a rollicking mid-tempo soiree and the injection of tempo and cock rock sizzle work to make both “There’s Blood on the Streets” and “Hell is Full of Good Intentions” electrifying listens. Then, there’s “Fires Below” which takes a simple riff and has the guitars mirroring each other at different registers to give the impression that something monolithic is about to crush your eardrums into fetid pixie dust. Even with the cleaner production quality.
It’s the little things that count, someone once said. And it’s the tiny alterations, additions, subtractions and shifting Victims do to their sonic homestead that inject The Horse and Sparrow Theory with enough of an edge to keep them tied to their roots but liable to be called out for doing too much different than the unwritten rule books of punk rock allows. For those that don’t care, Victims has just released one of the most exciting crust/D-beat records in recent memory and you'd be wise to check it out before we're all done like dinner.