Sort Sind

Written by: AP on 07/10/2016 00:26:41

It is always big news when a lowly Danish artist is picked up by a respected international record label, yet looking at this particular signing from an objective standpoint, Halshug became the perfect candidate for Southern Lord’s growing roster of crusty hardcore bands as soon as the first demo, “Dödskontrol”, was issued in 2013 and it was only a matter of time before the youngsters were discovered. The fact alone that the trio’s début album, last year’s “Blodets Bånd”, changed so little from its predecessor speaks in favour of that postulate; the production betrayed some new found financial muscle, but the band’s raw, d-beat fuelled signature sound remained intact.

Now, a year and a half on though, Halshug has mustered up the confidence to begin diversifying their tradecraft by embracing a groovier sound and dialling down the tempo on this latest outing, “Sort Sind”, Danish for black mind. The eponymous opening track heralds this shift with a nasty, slab-dragging, metallic riff laid onto an old hardcore punk rhythm, and, in contrast to the previous two records, by holding off until we have been treated to an eerie intro segment that you would think depicts a torture scene until its protagonist renders the assumption moot by screaming, in heartache: ”Mit hjerte gør ondt!”. The slowish start allows Halshug (which translates to behead) to edge the knife to your throat before “Indre Fængsel” then wallops it through the jugular with a familiar, Discharge-y onslaught.

But whereas “Blodets Bånd” was full-throttle from the word go, rattling the listener like gale force winds until he/she could not tell left from right, “Sort Sind” dispels the intensity of Halshug’s music in a more balanced way. A song such as “Udskud” hurls its kängpunk momentum left and right, but it also has space for temperance, and it is that rather Clash-esque stomp at the beginning, middle and end that makes its impact lasting. The story is similar in “Vold” and “Nederlag”, both of which engage these unprecedented, psychedelic injections of melody as hooks amidst the frenzy. “Mørket Falder”, the band’s longest piece yet at 4min 27sec, meanwhile tugs the proceedings into a grim, atavistic trudge that prods both the stoner doom of your Conans and Fistulas for influence, and soon after “Vanvid” suggests that Johnsen and his compatriots — guitarist Mathias Schønberg & drummer Mads Folmer Richter (what a last name for that instrument!) — might have been listening to some classic Darkthrone as well, when penning down ideas for this album.

For a sophomore outing then, Halshug gets little wrong on “Sort Sind”. Frequent manifestations of the old ensure that existing fans will not regard it with disdain, but the songs also expose a tangible desire to push forward; to be something beyond merely a dependable purveyor of fierce metallic hardcore. Some distance still needs to be covered before Halshug can claim to have its own niche, mind you, but just like the artwork, the sheer nonchalance of it, their making the disparaging inspirations work together and not against each other, is quite mesmerising. Even the monotony of Johnsen’s echoing vocalisation — the sort of hoarse scream that pretty much every crust hardcore outfit utilises — is oddly successful in terms of enveloping “Sort Sind” in a kind of distant, capitulating anguish. Indeed, Halshug gives off the not giving a fuck vibe in the best possible way, and if the band continues on the current trajectory, the eventual ‘difficult third’ album should have them on the lips of every hardcore fan, if they were not already.


Download: Vold, Vanvid, Nederlag, Ensom Død
For the fans of: Afmagt, Obliterations, Trap Them
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.09.2016
Southern Lord

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