A vicious band with a disarmingly innocent sounding name, Candy are on the front lines of hardcore’s continuing merger into electronics-addled industrial terror. Formed in 2017 in Richmond, Virginia, the group delivered a real motherfucker of an opening statement with the following year’s Good to Feel, a relentlessly intense scrum of old-school hardcore analog bruising given a razor-sharp upgrade through contemporary metal. As a pure distillation of guitar-driven punk taken to rabid, unrelentingly aggressive extremes, it’s an overwhelming experience to take—even in its relatively brief duration of 18 minutes. But as a precursor for the future-thrash mayhem on sophomore album Heaven Is Here, it’s a template for even more arresting applications of engineered venom.
Heaven Is Here, the band’s first full-length release for Relapse, is a new and formidable entry in 2022’s white-knuckle intense ironman competition, a listening experience that’s harrowing and invigorating in equal measure. Recorded with Arthur Rizk, an extreme-metal vet behind records like Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic and Devil Master’s Satan Spits on Children of Light, the album balances go-for-the-throat mosh pit anthems with a sleek new application of electronic elements, underscoring their many moments of pure sweat and adrenaline with an icy metallic sheen. On moments like “Fantasy/Greed,” when vocalist Zak Quiram barks, “Gluttonous fucks creating divide/Prodding, provoking, their victims subscribe,” the drone of piercing static in the background seems to mimic the squeal of the screen through which fascist propaganda is broadcast every night, or the hum of every surveillance device around us.
The landscape on Heaven Is Here is a lot like the inferno that adorns the artwork on their debut (including that one odd detail of a couple raw-dogging it in front of a car fire—more on that in a minute). For all the cybernetic enhancements to their raw, hardcore approach, Candy are still observing the same outside world you and I might be, but without feeling the need to be all that polite about it. Amid the explosive opening roar of “Human Condition Above Human Opinion,” Quiram laments a “civilized world devoid of function/Coercing others into submission.” And on the bluntly blistering “World of Shit,” he declares, “Freedom is not a permanent condition” before asking, point blank, “Are you supporting justice? Or lies?“
It’s not all bricks through windows. On a handful of tracks, there’s a sleek eroticism that echoes Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral fixed on Mr. Self Destruct mode, or the abrasiveness and nihilism of Songs About Fucking if Big Black’s songs were actually about fucking. “Transcend to Wet” allows in enough space to showcase myriad disorienting effects and eerie black-leather synth textures between its slow march of electronic beats. “Kinesthesia” is more conventionally sexy and just a little less outwardly hostile, a fiery EBM thumper that you can actually dance to, even in all its distorted chaos.
The most radical of Candy’s experiments on Heaven Is Here is “Perverse,” a 10-minute noise track that comprises wholly one third of the album. And it’s a consistently interesting noise track at that, but in taking up as much real estate as it does here—on an album of two-minute pipe-bombs and muscular calls to action—is a fascinating psyop. It’s not enough that Candy have offered a stunning showcase in pure aggression, they’re engaging in psychological warfare.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.