Ten minutes is, in the grand scheme, not a whole lot of time to assert yourself. Nor is it much of an allotment if you’re looking to make a profound point. But, despite a tendency to maintain a certain established aesthetic, the world moves quickly in the collective grungy underworld of crust punk, grind, and powerviolence. Bands operating in this arena do not debate--rather, they launch a vicious diatribe and disappear back into the crowd, eschewing reflection or extended discussion in favor of immediacy and brevity. I don’t know why I’m lecturing at this stage, though. If you like this particular flesh-peeling brand of extreme music, you already know the score. All this is to say, then, that on their latest effort, UK’s raging Negative Thought Process stick to this tried-n-true approach, delivering a blistering onslaught in less time than it takes to make breakfast. I know this because, in the course of making breakfast today (and the day before, and the day before that,) I was able to get the full dose of stomping aggression before my toast was done.
The true beauty, of course, is that in a very short span, Negative Thought Process and the proginaters of their ilk succeed at bottling, under intense pressure, an untold volume of frustration, vitriol, fear, and pure fury. Thus, listening to an album such as Hell... Is Much Better Than This is comparable to smashing said bottle and watching said emotion burst forth in a glorious moment of eyebrow-singeing explosivity.
It’s cathartic for the listener, and, one can only imagine, for the band as well--particularly when one pictures oneself lobbing that musical molotov into a crowd of those responsible for reinforcing the various forms of violent systemic oppression our society is built upon. “The conductors of our extinction are the mothers and fathers of the nation,” roar Negative Thought Process, and on this one, I can’t help but follow them into that pit of existential despair. Hell... Is Much Better Than This, then, isn’t just a catchy album title. It’s a worldview.
While Negative Thought Process is exceedingly competent at their craft, there admittedly isn’t much here that ye fans of the genre(s) in question won’t have heard before. The thick HM-2 tone is reminiscent of early-era Napalm Death, as is maniacal drumming and the general aesthetic and approach when it comes to structuring tracks. The vocals are exceedingly powerful alternating between a mighty grunt a la Matt Widener of Liberteer, and a swallowed higher register that recalls the (slightly) more understated performances championed by All Pigs Must Die. There is distinct attention given to dynamics in the tempo department, which reminds me of Magrudergrind--short riffs that verge on death-doom launch spastically into laceration-inducing whirlwinds with little lead-up or warning. No matter how many times I hear that little trick, it will always work its magic.
Each track, as a reinforcement of the status quo, focuses around one central idea, and ends as soon as that idea is articulated. There is no narrative arc--merely the portrait of a state of mind. The title track, for example, is a little more than one minute, consisting of a slow and ominous intro that blooms into a stompingly vitriolic affair. It remains at a fairly plod-like pace, but successfully introduces the impact of the vocals before the following “I AM SCUM” rips and roars it’s way through furious self-deprecation and washing machine-style pulverization. My favorite track herein, “FESTERING IN IGNORANCE,” is similarly constructed around a single motif--in this case, a concrete-thicc hook. In sum, there ain’t a bad track on this rabid little beast--indeed, the only weakness here is the length, simply because I could stand to hear a few minutes more. Call it a track or two. While brevity is a complaint I will almost never level, it does feel as though a few more ideas of the caliber we’ve heard thusfar would flesh out the release as a cohesive unit.
These six tracks, however, are damn good. The ultimate question for me isn’t whether you should listen to Hell... Is Much Better Than This--because you should--but rather why you should listen to them before Napalm Death and the bevy of associated bands in the crust/grind/violence universe. The answer, as it often is with such acts, is relevancy. Negative Thought Process speak directly to our particular situation in an enormously precarious time, a moment in which is has become clear that us little people are doomed. It hurts, but truth hurts. Like unto the best in the business, Negative Thought Process don’t shy from that harsh reality. Recommended!
Negative Thought Process - Hell... Is Much Better Than This will be released April 24th from Hibernacula Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!