Here’s a question for you. What is “urban” music? Is it really just hip-hop, rap, R&B and various forms of dance music? For me, urban music brings to mind music that could only be created in the environment fostered by living in a city – and that isn’t always music you can dance to. The Axis Of Perdition‘s filthy, grimy industrial black metal was forged in the grim northern town of Middlesbrough, and other than it’s literary and filmic influences, the urban industrial heartland it comes from is clearly vitally important to it’s sound.
Which brings me to Concrete Lung. Their debut EP last year was a mightily impressive release, with five original tracks that packed a hefty punch and perhaps a little surprisingly, one of the tracks (Recovery Position) has taken up a place as a successful club track.
After that positive start, coupled with some brutal live appearances, how does their first long-play album stack up? It certainly looks the part – a grey, blurred vision, forbidding urban landscapes on the inlay. And as Intravenous (IV) staggers into being – jagged riffs over hissing electronics – it’s clear that the musical outlook is no less bleak. Things really get going with the ugly brute that is The Outer Circle, whose beats and guitars explode like a nailbomb out of the speakers – and going back to The Axis Of Perdition, this doesn’t actually sound a million miles from where they are coming from.
An abrupt turn is taken on the vicious industrial punk of Suicide High Rise, which storms by in less than two minutes at a monstrous pace, but make no mistake – this is the sound of urban Britain, alright. Not the downtrodden, but those who are fucking sick of the status quo, and want to vent their fury at anyone who will listen. Life Down, another short-but-really-fucking-heavy track, is dominated by an impressive synth line that appears to date from the days of old-school rave. It’s no happy, wave your glowsticks kind of track, though.
The pace is taken right down again by the lengthy Mind Eraser, whose slow, mechanical grind builds an impressive head of steam. It’s also probably the one track on the album that really sounds like Godflesh, too. Wall of Christ is forty-five seconds long, and shoots by at not far off a grindcore pace. Hmm, industrial grindcore. Can we have more, please?
The crushing heaviness of this album doesn’t let up, either. The band appear to have recruited an entire army of guitarists to create a wall of noise on Drip Feed, while Flux chugs through your brain in very heavy boots. The last few tracks show other facets, too. Clever use of choral and string samples add an entirely new dimension to Pylon Kingdom (Part I), while Dead In The Mind uses acoustic guitars and what appears to be a saxophone (! – just check the solo midway through the track), creating something closer to neo-folk than the brutal, grimy industrial textures that permeate the rest of the album.
The additional, bonus track, Crash Reality, seems to be rather oddly placed after that. And when this album is apparently only going to be available in CD format (i.e. no digital version), I have to wonder why it’s billed as a bonus track. Still, it’s not a bad track, a repeating, chugging rhythm giving way to an industrial metal beatdown that Misery Loves Co. would have been proud to include on their debut album.
One thing that really does become clear over the forty minutes or so of this album, though, is that Concrete Lung clearly have no interest in being known purely as a band who are in thrall to the industrial past. Yes, it’s using building blocks long since perfected, but with the experimentation and extreme changes in dynamics through the album, there is a clear effort here for the band to carve their own niche. On the evidence so far, I’d say it’s mission accomplished.