Bristol is a strange city to walk through at night. Decades of gradual change, construction and demolition merge upon the senses, somehow inseparable from the city’s ancient foundations. Once the streets are emptied of students, workers and anyone else suspended in the here and now, the walker is left with the sense of living through many ages all at once.
Liars/Bastards, the third album from Bristol’s Hateful Abandon, stirs up the very same feeling. There is much about the album that could be a product of no decade but the present: its sharp-toothed critique of modern British society and politics; the absurd, almost Swastika-like collage of David Cameron surrounded by pound-signs; the breadth of influences and the depth of its production. Yet Liars/Bastards is also packed with the dark 70s and 80s industrial synthesis and punk-born fury that made its predecessor Move such a potent force. But clear as their influences may be, Hateful Abandon make a clean break from the minimalism of their Thatcher-era forebears and instead weave a dense and intricate web of sounds from the same lexicon. By this strange alchemy, Hateful Abandon manages to summon a simultaneous sense of spaciousness and claustrophobia that makes for a novel and unnerving listen. ‘High Rise’, one of the standout tracks from 2014 so far (sample here), captures this best with its busy bass-drum interplay and clanking bathtub percussion set against a shimmering synth and ghostly calls to prayer. (Fans of the band will also enjoy hearing the reappearance of the iconic power drill from Move’s ‘Poundland’ on this track.)
This is not to say that Liars/Bastards does not scale itself back when the time is right. ‘The Test’ is a beautiful example, with its strong tenor melody hanging above a gradually rising sea of spectral tones. The album’s biggest surprise, though, comes at its end: ‘December’ transforms itself from a rolling, major-key march into a dungeon-crawling masterpiece that hearkens back to the 90s visionary synth works of Mortiis and Wongraven. Only then does the ancient foundation of this sonic cityscape really come to light.
If Liars/Bastards was an instrumental album, it would be frightening enough already. But over its vast, pulsing foundation towers the inimitable voice of Vice Martyr, with its split personality of gravelly blackened vitriol and cavernous gothic bellowings. This is the strongest performance yet put to tape from both members. Swine too has laid down a set of intricate and wholly unique beats that give each song an unforgettable identity.
Liars/Bastards may conjure a vivid sense of past and present, but its prophetic gaze is no less forward-looking. “If you want a vision of the future,” its Orwellian opening sample warns, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” There may be truth in ‘TWNBP’s mantra that ‘there will never be peace’; but in bringing us an album of such incendiary passion and power, Hateful Abandon give us some hope to temper the horror with.
Buy now from Todestrieb Records.