Band break-ups, like any other kind, almost never go as smoothly as it seems they will. [Note: You have no idea the willpower it took not to reference “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” in this lede.] After a band’s official break-up is announced, it’s not unusual to hear announcements for one last EP, or a farewell tour, or in this record’s case, even a split, a few months later.
In the case of A.S.R.A. this split has been more than a few months in coming (since they’ve been broken up, what is it, almost 3 years now?) It collects a set of 6 tracks the band recorded before splitting up, along with new material from NYC grinders Defeatist and Baltimoreans Triac for an explosive split LP that’s one part fond farewell and two parts vehicle for a pair of still-rising stars.
All 3 bands bring their most violent, noisy material to the party, making you glad that at least two of these groups are still making music.
Defeatist sound more spontaneous here than either the songs collected on Sharp Blade Sinks Deep Into Dull Minds or those featured on debut LP Sixth Extinction showcased, balancing their characteristic modernist grindcore technicality with a healthy dose of visceral bite to compliment the always-present anger and frustration. Songs like “At Fault” spiral around themselves, repeating guitar lines snaking above and below sections of desperate, extended screaming. The band is at their best here on “Eyes over Teeth,” the briefest and fastest of their contributions, stirring what starts as a grind-punk assault into an angular, many-jointed riff-fest that fans of Discordance Axis will feel right at home with.
The split also collects some of the best material Triac has released so far, showcasing both the band’s blasting grind side and unhinged, sludged-out, punky side (hell, even their blasting side is unhinged-as-fuck) in equal measure. Of the band’s four offerings, the band’s fevered “Police Story/Car Jack Ferry” medley (the Black Flag standard, followed by what I’m fairly sure is an original) and the throat-shattering grindfest “Grab Everything That Kills” hit hardest, giving me the best reason to date to look forward to a new Triac full-length. Part of digesting new Triac material, from first LP Dead House Dreaming to the Blue Room EP and their songs on This Comp Kills Fascists Vol. 2, has been tracking their growth as a band, watching an array of disparate influences and interesting ideas gel into a sound that can be called uniquely their own. With these songs, it feels like that arc has been completed, as I could listen to the noise-rock-indebted snarl and stutter collected here and know within a few listens precisely the band that I was hearing.
A.S.R.A, the band featured third on both sides of the split, sound more balanced here than on the predominately mid-paced doom-crust/Assuck-meets-DxAx mash on LP The Way of All Flesh or the pig-squealing, too-thick deathgrind soup featured on This Comp Kills Fascists Vol. 1. However, at some points A.S.R.A. still sounds like a band at war with itself; awkward pig squeals derail the last few seconds of the otherwise awesome “False Memories,” and other songs fall prey to strange transitions and other construction missteps that, while they can be chalked up to the fact that the band broke up soon after the recording of these songs, still somewhat detract from A.S.R.A.’s portion of the proceedings. Overall, it’s great to hear “new” A.S.R.A., even if every song isn’t perfect, and the fact that they’re now defunct makes it hard to offer more than surface criticism of their efforts collected here.
With perhaps the exception of the Triac songs, this is by no means an essential release. In the best light, this record can be view as an introduction, both to the back catalog of all three bands as well as the already growing number of future releases from the two still-functioning ones. This split is like running into old friends at a funeral: you’re glad as hell to be together, but just can’t help wishing that the circumstances were better.
Defeatist have just released a new LP, Tyranny of Decay, available at their bandcamp, and Triac’s latest release, the four-song Always Meant to Hurt You EP, is available as a 7” through a389 Records.