Brighton bases Watchcries are among the new generation of bands who ignore, and seek to redefine, the somewhat antiquated notion of genre. Their self-titled EP sees them embracing techniques and sounds from hardcore, punk, black-metal, noise and more, uniting them with a delivery that is as focussed as it is ferocious.
Opener ‘Daymares/The Sleep Of Trust’ does anything but ease you in gently. It whips into breathless, rushing blastbeats and riffing before shifting into a decidedly hardcore one-two snare-kick beat buried under ragged tremolo guitars. The riffs are muscular, buoyed by rumbling groove, before slowing into a slower, locked in predatory swagger. Chaotic, tumbling fills get right in your face, jagged, atonal overlays pierce through. All the while Nats Spada’s savage growl cuts through, before things shift again into skipping snare runs, spoken-word vocals and slowly creeping guitars. It builds, returning to the lip-curled swagger, indulging in some call-and response vocals between Nat’s howls and guitarist Paul Hale’s barked grunts. It slows, like the track has exhausted itself, ending with well-spaced, tolling chords.
‘Obelisk’ looms into life with a galloping, dizzying assault, oppressively dark, that lurches into a driving hardcore section that hints at grindier properties, like a (considerably) slower Napalm Death. Again, a swaggering groove emerges, filled with the kind of punchy fervour that is borne in the pit. This is bolstered by ‘gang’ vocal shouts and Steve Barry’s deeply entrenched, almost subsonic bass rumble. Things enter slightly doomy waters, held, lowing notes overcut by arachnid guitar work and Ant Cole’s anxious, and irrepressible drum energy. The riff slowly unearths itself, like an upward, bloody-handed scrape upwards from deep underground, only to be battered back with hammer-blow kick drums and crushing riff.
Finishing things up (all too soon) ‘Recast The Shadows’ bristles and broods with sledgehammer chords and a gloriously scuzzy bass tone. The rampant, punchy main riff tears along, setting you reeling with pummelling kick and tom work, spurring the track on to greater ferocity as it begins to spiral upwards with remorseless intensity. Paranoia rears its head in the form of frantic tremolo and cymbals, which is trampled under the devastating jagged chug that succeeds it, which sees us home adorned with roaring, triumphant vocals.
There are two main criticisms that can be levelled against this release – the first is the sheer brevity. While a ten minute runtime might seem like a lot compared to some thrash, grind or hardcore releases, in a landscape studded with double albums, yawningly-long doom tracks and acts who churn out a new recording every six months, three short sharp shocks like this might not seem like enough to gain a lasting foothold unless followed up by something swiftly. (That said, this could just be down to the tracks’ searing quality – when you get something good, you want more of it as soon as possible)
As a statement of intent, a manifesto of the bands’ influences and direction, this EP is more than worthy. It is aptly self-titled – this is Watchcries, this is their vision.
If you’ve noticed the repeated use of words like ‘shift’ or ‘change’ in the review, it’s because that’s what this EP does, and it does it with a head-spinning frequency. Tracks flip between riffs and motifs almost second by second, and it’s somewhat frustrating to get your teeth into something only to have it taken away almost immediately. It’s understandable that a group of musicians will have many influences and sounds they want to evoke and utilise, but at times it seems like the four-piece attempt to cram every riff or idea they have had into the space of a single track. The upside of this is the sheer intensity it generates – it keeps you guessing, and in terms of musicianship Watchcries are more than able to pull off this kind of unpredictability.
As a statement of intent, a manifesto of the bands’ influences and direction, this EP is more than worthy. It is aptly self-titled – this is Watchcries, this is their vision. The record sounds fantastic - Wayne Adams’ turn behind the desk further cements his reputation as one of the UK underground’s finest producers, bringing out the bands’ crushing tones with no loss of clarity or muddying of waters. It’s an aperitif, hooking and holding attention and leaving you wanting more. Based on the strength of these three tracks, it’d serve you to keep an eye on the horizon.