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Murdock - Dead Lung album art

Dead Lung

13th April 2015 – Basick Records

01. Deer Noises
02. I Am Not A Continent
03. What You Don’t Like
04. Erk
05. Narrowcasting
06. 51 West, 95th St
07. Brain Face
08. The Signal In The Noise
09. Leave Me Here For The Crows
10. Old Blood Dead Lung
11. Verbalectomy
12. Nineteeneightyfive
13. Monographia

“If you’re not bleeding or exhausted, what’s the point?”

Irish noise-merchants Murdock have been in my crosshairs for such a long time now that it felt like I had built them up too much; that Dead Lung might turn out to be an internally over-hyped disappointment. A couple of songs have been dropped over the last couple of years, evoking comparisons with bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan in their unbridled intricacy, and with The Chariot for their pure, undistilled passion and fury. These have certainly been well deserved, but the question is: could such quality be sustained over the course of an LP?

No easy feat, and the trio certainly don’t make it easy for themselves: Murdock are a technical band, but not in the classic proggy, finger-waggling sense of the word. Instead they craft mathematically malicious hardcore, slinging time signatures around like trash cans in a tornado. Dead Lung is a mammoth piece of work in a genre famed for its aggressive brevity. Such furious, time signature-shifting technicality would typically be exhausting, and at 50+ minutes it had the potential to overstay its welcome.

It does not – in fact, quite the opposite. There must be some kind of chrono-sorcery going on here, because it feels closer to thirty minutes than the full hour – it’s so ruthlessly free of chaff. Only three tracks top the five-minute mark, and the composition is tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm. Even when they repeat ideas, riffs or phrasing, there’s always an off-beat, or a dropped strum, or something to differentiate any given bar from its peers. It’s remarkable attention to detail, and one of my absolute favourite hallmarks of the genre, executed masterfully at every turn.

This is in no small part thanks to the incredible musicianship of the writing partnership. Murdock are known for writing songs beyond their abilities and then forcing themselves to be able to play them, and you can absolutely believe it. Ronan Nolan governs his kit like a man with four arms, performing off-kilter rolls and fills, accenting here and breaking a beat there so that you’re never able to predict where he’s going to strike next – you just have to go with it. Aidan Cunningham handles both guitar and vocals, and it’s not just his physical aptitude that raises eyebrows, but also the variance he slots seamlessly into his compositions. The titanic riffs are remarkably satisfying, but the moments where the style changes entirely are so exquisitely executed you wonder why anyone would ever constrain themselves to one genre.

An early indicator is the short half-time seque in the final minute of “Erk” that makes its finale so satisfying. “Narrowcasting” is indelibly touched by Converge‘s Axe To Fall lounge-bar sidestep “Cruel Bloom” – another appropriate sonic touchstone. A sharp decrease in tempo invites Aidan’s hushed tones almost down to a croon; it’s a breathless lament that serves to cut the frothy tension of the opening salvo, before building towards another tidal wave of skin-thumping, knuckle-thrashing noise. Its segues into “51 West 95th St“; a light, refreshing jazz piece that leaps into action late on before rolling out of bed screaming into “Brain Face“. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

The quick snapshots of the recording process are nice touches: a snippet of studio conversation at the end of “Narrowcasting“; a chorus count-in in the middle of “Brain Face“. They remind you that this was recorded organically, which makes it all the more astounding. We’re likely missing a few swears to be sure, but Dead Lung is the complete hardcore album; it’s a feat of mechanics, of skill, and ultimately passion, and you’d be mad to ignore it.