[8th May 2014]
Holy shrieking Jesus; Hull quintet Black Tongue are angry. Really very angry indeed. As their second EP Born Hanged confirms, they have been cultivating a sound so furious that it makes a sizeable majority of modern metal sound as threatening as Alvin and the Chipmunks.
That’s a pretty bold claim right there, but after the half a minute of positively inhuman guttural growling that serves as an introduction to Born Hanged, it is difficult to recall a more immediate and comprehensive face-melting than the opening bars of “Waste“. In a word: Pow.
It quickly becomes apparent that Black Tongue’s favourite direction is down. The extended-range guitars are down-tuned pretty much as far as they will go, and the tempo is pushed down, at times, below 60bpm, and with song titles like “Blight“, “Purgatory” and “Coma“, the mood is low, too – these tracks are unlikely to be about sunshine and lollipops.
Of all these elements, it is the lumbering tempo of these tracks that really infuses them with menace. This combination of unbridled ferocity and glacial pacing makes Born Hanged feel as dangerous as a polar bear let loose on the International Space Station. You’ll probably be able to stay one step ahead, but will tear you apart without thinking if you get too close. In slow motion. Certainly, the discipline required to leave the cavernous gaps between notes that give each one such impact should not be underestimated.
If this wasn’t enough, Black Tongue’s only real acknowledgement of the upper registers comes in the form of lingering, reverb drenched lead guitar atmospherics, whose minor scales add an extra haunting dimension to the already menacing sound. Born Hanged is not an album you’d want to bump into down a darkened alley, but playing it loud will definitely keep the Jehovah’s Witnesses away.
It drips with the ‘you don’t like us, we don’t care’ attitude that pervades the deathcore scene at large, but it needn’t be the exclusive preserve of the beatdown aficionado. Just as we suspected from having watched Black Tongue play live there’s a spark of inventiveness in the riffs and song structures that may well appeal to a wider audience.
Yes, it is as heavy-going as pushing a bus through a tar pit, but – almost surprisingly – it is worth the effort. The EP format seems ideal for the band; short, concentrated doses of aggression that may lose some of their impact spread out over a full hour.
There is also every possibility that, through just a little refinement, those aforementioned sparks could transform into a towering inferno in the future. Even if you don’t take to it (and it certainly won’t be for everyone) subsequent releases could well be worth a look.
Born Hanged is not the soundtrack to a family picnic, but its confrontational belligerence might just be the best catharsis for even the most ragingly bad mood short of setting your own head on fire.
Born Hanged is available via the Total Deathcore Bandcamp page