Wastecase – an act of defiance (album review)
Review by Heavy NFLD’s Ben Chapman-Smith (https://heavynfld.wordpress.com/)
Welcome readers! Today we’re taking a look at St John’s own Wastecase’s Debut Release An Act of Defiance. An Act of Defiance was released October 28th 2019 and can be found on all major streaming services.
Wastecase started a few years back by Paul Brake and friends Steve Cranford (Drums), and Matt Dines (Bass). While there’s a couple of the songs from this line up made it onto Wastecase’s Debut release: An Act of Defiance(2019) this “formation of Wastecase didn’t really work out.” says Paul Brake – the Brains, Hands, Voice, and dare I say Soul, of Wastecase as it is now. After the original version of Wastecase disbanded He took the project into his DIY basement studio where He recorded and played every Guitar solo, drum fill, scream, and atmospheric synth part on An Act of Defiance.
The project now has a live line up including: Barry O’keefe (Guitar) and Adam Hearn (Drums) from Release The Hounds, Chris Carter (Guitar) from A Legend Fails. Evan Hennessy (Bass) from Man The Animal and Rivals with Paul Break fronting the Band.
Wastecase isn’t a band that fits neatly into one genre, that’s one of the reasons why I like them and why I think that whoever is reading this is going to like them too. With that said I’m going to throw out a couple guiding genres that I feel apply to the band’s first release: An Act of Defiance. In no particular order and in varying degrees throughout: Acid Punk, Horror Punk, Post Hardcore, and Hard Rock . An Act of Defiance sounds desperate, creatively aggressive, and it’s gushing with cathartic release. The entire album is high-energy shit-kicking goodness that would make the meekest of us hungry for a fight, figuratively speaking of course. It straightens your spine and makes you walk with intention. Seriously, Paul and the band should consider leasing out mosh-pits along with every copy of the album because it would really compliment the listening experience.
Wastecase’s An Act of Defiance was released on October 28th 2019. It is 8 songs at about 25 minutes of highly melodic, relentless, channelled, chaos. From the start you can expect pummelling percussion with plenty of blast beats that tastefully give way to more rhythmically diverse patterns and then back again, constantly and seamlessly. The Drumming on An Act of Defiance couldn’t be more suiting or more vital to its sound.
There’s a lot happening with the Guitars on this album. You get some harmonics, and some dissonant noise focused tricks, as well as wah-saturated lead lines. The Rhythm Guitar parts fill out the backbone of the sound and carry a Punk vibe with a tendency towards Riff-Rock songwriting choices. The Guitar work also knowingly dances around dissonant chords / arpeggios as in Precious Blood – When I mentioned post-hardcore earlier this review, that is what I was talking about.
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Let’s talk Bass for a second, good Bass playing can often go unnoticed, and there are a lot of reasons for that, but one of the main reasons great Gass playing goes unnoticed is because that’s how it’s written. Bassically (heh) Bass often functions as the bedrock of a sound and allows other instruments to harmonically play off of the ground that it paves. As such it can be intentionally less flashy to allow space for everything else. It’s not going to grab your attention but the Bass playing in An Act of Defiance is a big reason it sounds as full as it does – it performs exactly as it should rhythmically and helps to build and ease off momentum as needed. I don’t want to damn it with faint praise here, but I see the Bass as a songwriting and grounding tool with the occasional embellishment to help it stand on its own.
The Vocals on An Act of defiance are aggressive throughout, the feeling of desperation I mentioned when describing their sound is definitely coming from the Vocals. There is a near constant sense of exertion bordering the point of exhaustion, as the parts vary in grit from hair-raising screams to yell-talking. Lyrically, and I am extrapolating from my own interpretation here, Wastecase keep things aesthetically consistent with their sound – colourfully vulgar. There are recurring themes of: taking control of one’s direction and influence – violently awakening to personal, social and existential/moral reality – reflection on one’s behaviour, and the part we play in contributing to our own emotional, existential and moral self harm as well as the frustration and struggle associated with the curing or killing of these things.
Lyrically the songs have a strong flavour of pushing forward and striving despite friction, and also the necessity to take control of one’s own direction and influence despite seeming too far gone. You can expect lots of creepy and unnerving imagery, tension and angst abound as displayed with song titles like “A Mouthful of Hornets” and “Precious Blood”.
Now that the obligatory tangential analysis is done, let’s get back onto the tracks.
Track 1 – A Mouthful of Hornets
The album kicks off with “A Mouthful of Hornets”. Lyrically the song is about violently awakening to self destructive behaviour, like biting into a mouthful of hornets. You shouldn’t do that. As you could imagine there’s a lot of screaming. “A Mouthful of Hornets” is percussively relentless, there are spots that let you catch a breath but they don’t last long. Seriously, this song will make you feel claustrophobic, there’s a lot happening in little space, but in a good way – think houseparty mosh pit (Yes, that’s a great band name, go ahead and use it).
The Chorus of the song balances out the a/A style of the Intro/Verse and gives you some space to breathe. The structure is relatively straightforward but the pieces fit like a glove and the “false ending” before going back to Verse/Outro riff is solid. The mix has a lot of character, I’d also like to note the clipping on some of the Vocals – it adds a nice bit of distortion to the Vocals and adds to the dark feel of the song. If You’ve ever heard of word painting, that’s basically what’s happening here.. I mean, if You took a bite into a mouthful of hornets Your singing voice would probably come out sounding a little off as well.
I’m gonna list of the rest of the highlights a la Joe Bob Briggs:
-You’ve got blast beats
-You’ve got two voices screaming over each other
-You’ve got a lead sound at around 1:13 that sounds like an elephant
-You’ve got complimentary yet competing rhythms and harmonies
-You’ve got discordant but harmonically sound Guitar parts
-You’ve got – A Mouthful of Hornets.
Track 2 – Bruise on your Brow
Ahh, order from the noise. Where A Mouthful of Hornets will chew you up, and spit You out before you know what’s happening, The Bruise on your Brow is more like a signal in the noise. The song starts off with Vocals and Guitar and builds nicely before kicking out the jams, the song is a bit more linear with a punk rock Verse into a Chorus with an almost Hard Rock / Anthem Rock vibe to it. Lead Guitar parts with wah definitely add to a Hard Rock vibe. Lyrically the song is about rolling with the punches, and she’s definitely a bruiser.
Track 3 – Precious Blood
The opening riff of Precious Blood is my favourite riff on the album. Which is a good thing, because it’s the anchor of this song. Almost every part of the song revolves around in it and It doesn’t get boring once! If anything I want more! It’s slinky and funky but still has that trade mark discordant cap on the riff. Supporting the Lead Guitar are the Rhythm Guitar and Bass as they take shots and leave lots of negative space. This creates a call and response that gives the tune a bit of a stagger. This part is also what connects the Verse and Chorus parts. Precious Blood is definitely a highlight on An Act of Defiance.
Track 4 – Master Destroyer
Back into the pit with – Master Destroyer. Master Destroyer has this steamroller of a sound that can and will trash anything in its path. The tune throw’s its weight around until about a minute into the song where you get a feeling of suspension. The pick scrapes at around 1:04 are a brilliant idea, they seem to represent the sound of a wire that’s been strained to its breaking point and in doing so they create the image of supporting something really heavy that’s about to come crashing down. And be sure friends, it does. The more I listen to this song the more I picture some kind of giant creature like the Blob or Godzilla or something just laying waste to Cities. Anyway back to the song – After the suspension cuts – the song moves into a brief build that gives way to a very satisfying Guitar fill with a whammy pedal at 1:32. Solid tune, short and sweet but it will flatten you.
Track 5 – Bad Trip City
Bad Trip City starts off sounding Punk Rock as hell with a descending Guitar part.Drums come in with 4 on the floor and a building snare roll that kicks it into full tilt. Meanwhile there’s a screeching whammy Lead Guitar part reminiscent of a synth from an old school horror flick – again a great stylistic choice that compliments the lyrics and subject matter of the tune. The Verses are pretty old school punk rock, but then the tune gets flipped on its head with an ascending pattern that changes direction of the tune towards the Chorus. The Chorus stands out like a sore thumb, It cleanly stops the momentum and introduces a more dissonant part as Paul Brake sings “Bad trip city, am I still with me?” and then the band just comes in banging. Around 1:32 the song goes into a breakdown with more squealing whammy and a slow trudge through the Verse parts through to the Outro. The tail end of Bad Trip City gives off a strong Doom / Horror Punk feel.
Track 6 – Genuine Article
The Intro to Genuine Article is features the trippiest garden chimes I’ve ever heard. In addition to the avant garde atmospheric sounds there’s a contrasting sporadic Guitar part just doing a few quick bends here and there. The song slowly builds itself off of this Guitar part. All in all its a quirkier, spacier tune than most of what we’ve heard so far. The song kicks in at 1:25. The song bounces between a more spacious Verse and a Riff Rock / Hard Rock Chorus. The Keys that kick in at 1:50 aren’t particularly complex but it adds a dark texture to the song and, like the Big Lebowski’s rug, they really tie the tune together. This song definitely stands in contrast to most of the album and that is in no way a bad thing. It shows versatility and really adds to the body of work. Lyrically the song seems to be about being authentic and the pitfalls and fall out of not being true to yourself.
Track 7 – What’s it Gonna be?
What’s it Gonna be? comes out swinging with a Nu-Metal meets Riff-Rock Verse. One of the cool things about this song is that it follows a 12 bar Blues progression. The Intro / Verse part plays then repeats itself when it moves up a 4th, then moves to the 5th for the Turnaround. The song not only fits a 1 – 4 – 5 but the 12 bar format as well. The structure only digresses from the 12 bar format in the Intro and for a break down at 1:42. Let’s talk dynamics for a second – the turnaround of What’s it gonna be is less busy and less aggressive than the body of the progression but the gritty wah that sits on top helps to fill it out. There’s one of the best screams on the album at 3:19. Lyrically the song challenges you to take charge of your future and to start acting as soon as “your brain allows”. Its both a song that is motivating and encouraging as well as a song that warns you that not choosing is very much a choice.
Track 8 – Stripped, Shaved, Beaten and Burned
The Final track of An act of Defiance is Stripped, Shaved, Beaten and Burned. The lyrics of the song, much like Chumbawumba’s tubthumping, are about getting knocked down and getting up again and never being kept down. It’s about the inevitable erosion that’s attached to life as it is. It’s about persistently defying gravity and fighting through it. Stripped, Shaved, Beaten and Burned kicks off with Vocals and a Guitar part that sounds kind of like Thrash Metal. The parts are joined by Drums as they build into the Verse. The song takes from Punk and Hard Rock heavily. To paint with broad strokes – I would say that the parts themselves are more Hard Rock (see Chorus) where as the Punk Rock elements shine through in the songwriting / structure. For example at 1:22 there’s a Verse progression where Guitars drop out (except for the delay manipulation) and it couldn’t be more Punk Rock. Lyrically and Vocally this song stands out from the crowd but that’s not to say it isn’t a banger. In fact the break down after the second Chorus (2:13 – 3:07) is as epic and hectic a part as anything from the first half of the album, and it doesn’t lose a gram of speed as Lead Guitar shreds, in a Jack White-esque tone, all over the build, through the righteous and dramatic Outro and brings the album to a close.
Final thoughts on An Act of Defiance by Wastecase.
Wastecase’s An Act of Defiance is chaotic but melodic, aggressive and tense but still very musical. Listeners can expect:
– Strong song-writing that covers a variety of styles
– Shredding lead Guitar with plenty of wham and wah,
– Punishing Drum parts
– Aggressive and gritty Vocals
– A tendency towards Riff Rock and Punk rock with sprinklings of Horror punk / Acid
Punk / Post Hardcore, some Psych, Doom, and technically even Blues
In an Act of Defiance there is no shortage of densely stacked instrumental parts, but they are organized in an old school Punk / Pop Punk kind way that helps give the songs clarity. Despite the dark subject matter there is a theme of perseverance and finding forward momentum in spite of, if not from, the adversity that we face as individuals. The album is well mixed, it is low-fi but in a way that is aesthetically consistent with the material presented there-in. The songs reflect the idea of necessity as the mother of invention, or growth in this case, and could be argued as a case study on how not to be a Wastecase.
Listen to this album:
-With your parents
-When taking your kids to their first day of kindergarten
-At your retail job
-While Playing super smash bros
-While actually fighting a man
John Roach’s Beer pairing for this album is: Driftwood’s Fat Tug “Definitely something Aggressive, with classic rock and roll influences. [A Beer] that packs a punch. I would pair with this is Driftwood’s Fat Tug from Vancouver. It’s a hops uppercut [focused], with a subtle sweetness that lingers in the aftertaste. The punch is what kept pulling me back to it for sure!” Seems about right.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Check it out!
To Find more Wastecase, visit the following links
An Act of Defiance on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6zAHDhvvrDT6jIdNNXySGq?si=CL926rIISYi8cvwEaas S1g
Reviewed by: Ben Chapman-Smith
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