Departing from the neo-psychedelia of their 2014 EP Cassette, Canadian post-punk quartet Viet Cong’s self-titled LP infuses bleak post-punk with experimental guitar licks to create an uncompromisingly dark and compelling sonic experience.
Hammering guitars and signature gloomy lyrical matter see Viet Cong mould an album steeped in gritty post-punk.
Since the release of the 2014 EP the band, comprising of Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace (formerly of the Art Rock group Women) as well as longtime collaborators Chad VanGaalen and Danny Christiansen, have been hard at work touring and recording in the confines of a secluded barn in their native Ontario to produce their follow up album.
From the get-go the album plunges to the gloomy depths of the post-punk genre, exploring themes of doom, isolation and disillusion in a cold, militant and dystopian world. Driven by pounding drums and vocal chants the album’s ominous opening track Newspaper Spoons kicks things off in a suitably cinematic and slow building fashion. Setting the tone for things to come dissonant guitar, harsh and authoritarian vocals, thudding bass, eerie synth and regimented drums work in unison to create some great rock music and draw the listener into a cold and dark soundscape.
The last three tracks are where the album really shines. Continental Shift is stands head shoulders above the other tacks, perfectly blending the musical elements of the band to capture the dark aesthetic the album strives to achieve. Although we have yet to see them in Australia, Viet Cong have already begun to garner a reputation as live performers and it’s clear that the production has certainly captured some of this energy in the recording of these last three tracks. There is something to be said for the band’s ability to bring together dissonant guitar noise and repetition without coming off as grating or off-putting.
The band continues to hit their stride with following track Silhouettes. Here the band plays it close to their post-punk roots. The distinctive synth strings of Joy Division are combined with aggressive yet indifferent baritone vocals and lyrical themes of disconnection which could have sprung from the troubled mind of Ian Curtis himself. While drawing on this formula might be somewhat of a staple when exploring this grim underside of post-punk, the combination of these elements with the band’s knack for weaving dissonant guitar and experimental noise into engaging tracks sees them execute their idea in a creative way as well as deliver some excellent post-punk rock.
Death is the climatic 11 minute finale, like the fitting end to an energetic live performance the band pulls out all the stops in a medley of post punk glory. Hammering guitar soloing and panicked vocals bring the album to a calamitous close. Befitting of the bleak and unremitting tone of all that has come before there is no illumination, respite or happy ending to be found here, instead the band continues to explore themes of isolation and turmoil ending the sonic experience by sending the album spiraling towards oblivion.
The band’s self-titled LP shows that Viet Cong’s willingness to embrace another facet of post-punk has taken them in a new and interesting musical direction as well as creating a welcome addition to the foreboding pantheon of dark post-punk albums.
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