At times being an artist in Australia can be discouraging; stern restrictions on live music venues means that Sydney’s music culture in particular takes a blow. Nevertheless, with this aside, the shape of Australian punk to come looks as ripe as ever.
Sydney punk has become recognised for its high prevalence of chorus pedals and deathrock inspired gloom. Top tier bands such as Low Life, Orion, Sinkhead and Housewives have become synonymous with the ‘Sydney underground punk sound’; an increasingly popular sonic approach that has left a clear influence on emerging bands such as Sex Drive.
One of the more notable bands to newly emerge from this scene are Sydney collective DEN; sporting a synth driven, post-punk onslaught, devoted to inflicting an unapologetic jolt to the senses.
DEN are renowned for their immense auditory display of sonic vibrancy and primitive live performances, sporting jagged post-punk synths and straight-up ear biting licks.
Established in 2014, DEN is comprised of Michael Grossman, Steven Hicks, Tomas Nunez, and Michael Hassett; each member boasting accomplished background’s in their own rites. Following appearances at BIGSOUND, Volumes Festival, Reverse Charges and Bad Day Out; DEN have finally released their highly anticipated debut self-titled EP, with a helping hand from the legends behind one of Sydney’s finest labels Rice is Nice.
Great live bands should always be done justice behind studio walls but upon heading to the studio, many bands simply fail to accurately capture the sheer brilliance of what makes their live shows so great; instead the end result can be rather underwhelming.
Fortunately, this is not at all the case for DEN.
Drum machines firmly pulsate and synthesizers chime a harrowing tone. Spanning over three minutes, the opening track Life In Chains is an epic ascension toward a pulverising showcase of grimy textures and vibrant allure, together packaged to create an ambitious atmosphere.
Grossman’s vocals persist throughout with his distinctive lacklustre dynamic, buried behind monstrous walls of dark-wave synth textures. Right from the get go, it’s hard to shake the Total Control influence here.
Poltergeist was the first single from this EP and arguably remains unsurpassed as the best track here. Poltergeist boasts an impressive sonic barrage of synthesizers accompanied by the drive of the underlying bass groove. Reverb doused guitar licks bustle across the mix, toeing the borders of shoegaze and deathrock before deteriorating into an unruly frenzy of noise.
The gloomy synths could have been ripped straight from a horror soundtrack; I could see Melbourne’s synth-punk trio NUN employing something similar.
Nothing on this EP sounds half baked. The tunes are top notch, and considering this is a DIY approach, the quality of the mix is genuinely impressive. Inter-View is a great example; despite how multilayered this track is, nothing sounds as though its fighting for room on the mix.
Who said a good punk track needs speed? The fourth track Inertia slows down the pace, offering a dejected sound that is highly reminiscent of Low Life.
While Inertia definitely takes a slower approach, DEN’s primitive nature remains. Moreover, Grossman’s lyrics fit flawlessly into the atmosphere:
“I’ve stayed in this world too long”.
The fifth track Current Riser is a two-minute journey through a sci-fi tunnel of filth, revisiting the sheer energy that was flaunted on Inter-View. It’s an excellent display of DEN’s ability to fashion a mix between pedestrian punk stylings and vast intricate soundscapes.
Finally, the EP concludes on In The Stare; yet another solid track that certainly doesn’t offer anything that diverges much from the familiar sound DEN have established on the remainder of this EP. Nevertheless, it’s an all-round enjoyable listen, serving well as a great closing track.
DEN’s debut EP is an impressive release that will surely be praised by Sydney siders and punk fans alike for its bold stylings and forceful energy.
To celebrate its release, DEN will be touring their EP in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney throughout this month and into December. Do yourself a favour, and make sure you attend at least one of these events, and while you’re at it, pick up a shiny blue cassette tape from Rice is Nice.