Review: Musket Hawk, Grin and Bear It, Sidetracked, Ugly4-way Split


Commit to the split!

For some reason, splits tend to be a turnoff for me. I think there’s some highfalutin notion at play about wanting to enjoy a full piece of work from a band rather than a haphazard collection of offcuts featuring a bunch of people I never heard of. Yet, while there may be splits that fit that description, there’s also plenty of stuff that embraces the idea of having multiple bands involved, for example by exchanging band members or rallying around a common cause. Besides, in several cases, those people I never heard of turned out to be great bands.

A while back, for example, there was a split between Noxis and Cavern Womb, the latter of which I didn’t know and now am eagerly awaiting new material from. Same with the bands on this 4-way split from last year, which drew me in purely with its sick cover art. As for bands I do know, just this year, we’ve already had a killer grindcore split from Eastwood and Chadhel as well as one from death metal heavyweights Abyssal and Ellorsith (editor’s note: Listen to Ellorsith! -Roldy).

The point is, there’s plenty of reasons to lose my inhibition about listening to splits, and if you’re in the same boat as me, maybe a look at today’s subject will help with that. We’ll be checking out a 4-way split featuring 4 bands I hadn’t heard of before with 4 quite different approaches to brutal music.

Musket Hawk open the pit up with some gory deathgrind’n’roll. Fans of Exhumed (or any project involving Leon del Muerte, really) will feel right at home with two tracks that go a little bit beyond mere goregrind. While containing plenty of high-tempo carnage, the music is prone to pivot into groovy sections resembling some kind of morbidly fun NOLA sludge. I’m usually a segregationist when it comes to fast and slow music, but these guys pull the mix off really well.

I think Grin and Bear It are my favorite of the bunch. Their rickety brand of grind (incidentally reminding me a bit of Are You God?, a band I found via a split) sounds like a combine harvester that someone built in their garage. Rusty scrap metal and half-rotted wood rattle and squeak as the exhaust belches out black smoke and neighbors shriek in terror. Seriously, some of these vocals are insane. I wrote about the band Kluster Fuck some 5 years ago, and they have the only shrieks of comparable intensity. The fact that I a) remembered that and b) had to go back that far says something about both vocalists.

Sidetracked‘s portion of the split consists of 19 tracks ranging from 5 to 19 seconds in length, and as if that wasn’t enough start-and-stop action, almost every track features one or more breaks, so that drawing any sort of line becomes impossible and the whole section feels like the most disjointed 3-minute song I’ve ever heard. I get the impression that parts were cut and pasted together to eliminate any superfluous parts or silence, like one of those Youtube videos that cut every two seconds. It’s like I’m getting a glimpse of the future of my attention span.

Closing things up and circling back to sludge, we have Ugly. Far from Musket Hawk’s hybrid approach, however, this sludge is pretty pure, i.e. consistently slow and quite menacing thanks to the harsh dual vocals and synths that contribute both noise and eerie melodies.

The promo for this split and for Ugly’s latest EP Autograph came in at around the same time, and while I liked the tracks present here, the EP offers a much more thorough and interesting exploration of their particular style. With a more pronounced electronic influence, a multitude of sampled soundbites, more clean vocals, and, in one case, rhythmic hyperventilation (“Dirt”), they manage to create a lot of variety while remaining consistently dark and miserable. Muchly recommended.

Now, even though the music may be slappin’, one argument from split sceptics remains: it can be a pain in the ass to try to buy these things, at least digitally. Best case scenario is you’ll have to decide which of the acts to support as all of them offer the entire split; more likely, you’ll have to awkwardly assemble it yourself from multiple Bandcamp pages (what horror!). The other day over on Discord, we nearly lost our minds trying to find a digital version of the recent Ninth Realm/Inhuman Nature split that isn’t ludicrously priced and actually features all four songs.

Confusion reigns in today’s case, as well. The split was handled by To Live a Lie Records and Unholy Anarchy Records. The latter have remained stumm on the whole thing, while the former offer black and white vinyl copies—but only through their webstore. A digital version is available on the Sidetracked Bandcamp page, but you only get to listen to the full thing when you buy it (upon which you’ll find a few tracks mislabeled). Hopefully what you’ve heard and read here today will be enough to make you look past all this nonsense.

Long story short, the 4-way split is available digitally here.

Ugly’s Autograph EP is fully stream- and purchaseable here.


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