Oozing Wound aren’t for everyone. Sure, you could say that about a lot of strains of metal—extreme music is generally not extremely popular, and that’s perfectly fine. But Oozing Wound also kind of have a chip on their shoulder. It’s a good-humored chip, but it’s hard to overlook and it sometimes rubs people the wrong way. That’s, in part, because of their chosen genre. Ostensibly a thrash metal band, Oozing Wound have the speed and intensity to deliver vintage Exodus and Slayer-sized riffs and pull them off both brutally and impeccably. But in attitude, they’re something more like the Melvins or any band featuring hometown Chicago hero Steve Albini. They wield snark and smartassery as nimbly as they do riffs, and they don’t. give. a. fuck.
New album High Anxiety doesn’t change any of that. They’re still loud, fast and intense. And they’re still talking shit; the tracklist features songs called “Surrounded by Fucking Idiots,” “Birth of a Flat Earther,” and the single, “Tween Shitbag,” which opens with the line, “Oh man, I really love your band…at least I did.” And of course, they’re really good at being smartmouthed thrash heroes, which is why regardless of anyone’s reservations about their sincerity (which is silly considering they’re getting close to the decade mark with this), it’s hard to come away from High Anxiety with the impression that Oozing Wound are anything but total badasses.
High Anxiety doesn’t always sound like a traditional thrash album. When the band’s charging full steam ahead, tearing their way through a breakneck rhythm like they do on “Die on Mars,” they can roar with the best of them. But in that song’s second half, the band let of the gas and turn their relentless warpath into a noisy pigfuck churn cycle. Similarly, single “Tween Shitbag” has the immediacy and ferocity of classic Slayer, but there’s a dissonance and abrasiveness to the melody that nods to vintage Amphetamine Reptile or Touch and Go bands. On “Birth of a Flat Earther,” however, the band completely does away with any notion of being a thrash metal band, their ominous, manic strut a gilded page from The Jesus Lizard’s playbook. Were they a more traditional thrash band this might stick out like a sore thumb, but Oozing Wound allow themselves enough latitude and experimentation for this to sound perfectly natural alongside a more direct ripper like “Filth Chisel.”
While High Anxiety doesn’t offer an olive branch to those who might not have taken to Oozing Wound so easily the first time—if anything they double down on the hostility, and honestly I can’t say I blame them—there are more than enough interesting and exciting musical ideas on the album for that to be a moot point. Everything here rips, and often in different ways than on past albums. And the directness of their shit-slinging is, frankly, pretty refreshing. So much of metal is fraught with metaphor and pageantry. It’s nice to hear a band get straight to the point and tell you how much you suck while they shred.