Review: Bandit – Siege of Self
A little bit of powerviolence never hurt anyone.
You’d be forgiven for letting Bandit slip under your radar so far. Their first full-length boasts only one song over a minute, and it’s a cover (grindcore amirite?). Their last release Warsaw ekes out a bit more, coming in just over the 7-minute mark. But god damn, what a 7 minutes those are. It made enough of an impression that it stole a coveted slot on this site’s premier podcast. One astute Bandcamp reviewer (me) compared it to being punched in the face for the first time. So even if they’re coming from minimalist grindcore obscurity, I had high expectations for Bandit’s third full-length, Siege of Self.
Starting from the lilting piano intro “Midnight”, Siege of Self sets out quite intentionally to undermine (get it?!) your assumptions about the band. One throughline is the intensely personal nature of the music. Warsaw was dedicated to vocalist Gene Meyer’s Polish grandmother and several songs are named after Polish cities occupied in WW2. Siege of Self reveals itself to be on a more introspective bent, starting with a recorded lecture that suggests it’s “better to have self-hatred than to have nothingness”. The song slowly drags you to the crest of the rollercoaster, then lets go.
The music starts pummeling and chaotic, like a drunken street fight. The riffs are angular and constantly changing direction; the drumming is frantic, shifting the beat and quickly throwing in fills left and right to keep you from getting a moment to breathe. Its sense of urgency comes not from insane bpms, but because the riffs feel like they’re interlocking pathways trapping you in a labyrinth. I don’t think the band repeats anything for more than two or three bars on the entire album, and the songs keep going on and on, befuddling you as they constrict. They’re the longest of any Bandit release, averaging just under two minutes a piece, with a ~5-minute closer. I do wish the production and guitar tone were more crisp, like on Warsaw, but the claustrophobic feel does fit to create a sense of breathlessness. Since this album was engineered, mixed, and mastered by TovH darling Colin Marston, I’m willing to end up eating my own words on this.
The vocals sound frayed with frustration and sadness. They jump between rancorous shrieks à la Jon Chang (Discordance Axis/Gridlink) and subdued grunts full of frustration, longing, and regret. The lyrics read like piecemeal trauma haikus, like pages ripped from someone’s diary of righteous anger. They add considerable weight to the impact of the songs. They feel almost voyeuristically personal, like listening to another person’s therapy session. Considering that the vocalist is a social worker and therapist, it seems the intent was to take the listener through a mad frenzy of catharsis.
Siege of Self is a laudable throwback to early 2000’s grind, a love letter to Terrifyer-era Pig Destroyer. The band might be known for their goofy stage antics, like their penchant for disrobing during shows, but this is music in concussion grenade form. This is grindcore to lose some teeth to.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
You can follow Bandit on Twitter and Instagram and grab a copy of Siege of Self on their BC or stream it below.