By: Andy Price
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Released on October 19, 2016 via Independent
It’s always a bit galling when you come across a band that does something really, really well. I had that moment when I popped ILENKUS’ previous album The Crossing onto my record player a couple of years back and got absorbed into the big post-metal sounds and the proggy swirls. The overall effect was to carve a new path in the direction that Mastodon and Intronaut have been driving for the last few years. It was a great record, really impressive, and was one of my favourites of the year, and a really good example of that style of music. Fast forward to 2016 and ILENKUS have returned with Hunger, a four track EP which moves to a far more aggressive style of noisy hardcore, and upsettingly, they’re bloody great at that too. Really, that much talent shouldn’t be allowed.
‘Hunny Bunny’ is a brutal opener. It immediately banishes any memory of post-metal style soundscapes with an off-kilter riff and blasting percussion; channelling Botch, and making an early play to claim Dillinger Escape Plans’ crown for spazzy chaotic hardcore. It is two and a half minutes of vital grinding noise-core, propelled by violent guttural vocals, before disintegrating into squealing feedback. The song instantly feels exciting, which is exactly what this style of music should do. This is followed by ‘Pretty Secret’, a lumbering, downtuned sludgy beast, built on a single central riff. This slows the pace down a little and brings a different kind of heavy, taking sludgy vibes and a post-hardcore feel to it; it reminds heavily of the times that Converge take the foot off the gas.
Just as the listener gets used to this pace ‘Exhume’ smashes down on the gas again with an intro that is almost black metal, reminding this listener of Young And In The Way. It’s a brutally effective shock to the system, and quite disorienting in its impact. This is aided by the clarity of the production, which keeps all elements in balance, including keeping the tremolo picked guitar line clear over the maelstrom of drums, guitars and screams. Kudos to producer Aidan Cunningham and specifically to the ubiquitous Brad Boatright for the mastering on this, the production leaves us with a tight sound that matches the chops and changes in the sound. ILENKUS turn on a dime again and bring the kind of noisy middle eight that Dillinger Escape plan have been fond of in recent time, all blurry distorted percussion and sudden stabs of noise, before bringing in a big breaking riff and a sudden stop to close the song. In another example of keeping the listener off-balance ‘The Romantic’ comes in on the off-beat – a surprise that continues to work even when you know it is coming – marshalling an initial grinding rhythm that reminds of Botch and recent KEN Mode efforts. An effective clean middle section builds to a huge grinding climactic rhythm topped with a screaming cadence, before closing the EP with feedback.
Trying to divorce objective from subjective, there’s lots to love about this EP – the twists and turns, the sudden stops and changes in direction, the ease in which the band play with listener perceptions, the song-writing chops and the excellent vocal performance. The level of progression from The Crossing is ridiculous; everything is tighter and the focus is clearer. Being subjective, it’s a great EP that has brought a massive smile to my face, alternating with ‘that riff face’ that I apparently get when just the right thing happens. It’s been on constant play since I heard it and is one of the most vital and exciting 14 minutes and 11 seconds that you’ll listen to today – and this is exactly why you should go out and buy this record.