Full disclosure: As I write this, I have a roaring head cold, like a balloon tied to my neck bobbing in upper winds, fluid motion palpable inside of the walls of my skull. As it turns out, this may in fact be the ideal way to listen to Oozing Wound, feeling an automatic codeine haze just by dint of the pure effects of sickness. Their approach to punk-metal has always leaned more tidal than purely riff-driven in the Slayer sense anyway, feeling often more like the heavier wing of Nirvana punched up by crossover thrash. It’s funny; this measured petulance on their part has me convinced they are a joke band, a sentiment that always causes me pause when I see they have a new record coming down the pipe. I don’t really need anymore comedic or jokey records, I think to myself, oblivious to the plain fact that I have listened to and written about a handful of their records and this is absolutely not what the band is about. Perhaps it has something to do with the lingering resonance of them naming a record Whatever Forever. Regardless, it’s foolish of me.
The effort here feels closer to the post-Nirvana driven approach to noise rock that we see in groups like KEN Mode, where you can faintly hear Cobain’s harsh scream, the absolute thunder of Grohl’s powerhouse drumming, a bass that feels as melodically and rhythmically present as the guitars. Granted, Oozing Wound draw this connection more clearly, what with having an album called Blech mirroring the iconic cover of Nirvana’s Bleach and all. This is fitting since, given that not all Nirvana-isms are made equal, they clearly draw more from that Sabbathian mass of downtuned distortion rather than the strange pop of Nevermind or the soul-bearing abrasion of In Utero. As someone who listens to a hell of a lot of heavy metal, from the mainstream down to obscuro-hesher bullshit, I forget sometimes that music can feel this vital, like the hammering of the instrument is done on the border between life and death. There’s comedy here, sure, but it’s gallows humor, the same manic smile Kurt had plastered on his face in all those iconic videos. Context matters; this is laughter from the edge of fury and disgust.
The band still hasn’t quite delivered that defining song or undeniable hook that seems to kick the doors open. Make no mistake: these tracks are bracing and emotive, well worth your time be you a fan of punk, metal or just plain ol’ heavy, nasty as fuck rock and roll. But the band seems to have yet to capture that quintessence, the song that (even if it’s not a “big single” or whatever) suddenly becomes the obvious thesis of the group. It’s not always about being anthemic, and different genres call for and produce different shapes of this thing. Plus, Oozing Wound sounds better here than they did on High Anxiety, a record I love, and that too was better than Whatever Forever. It’s this strange riddle; what differentiates a good record with great songs from a great record with great songs? At times, this record even feels closer to Today is the Day, that kind of manic hateful noise rock that has elements of extreme metal and grind tossed in, threatening to grant that final titular song that pierces the veil and arranges everything else like stars in a constellation crown. “Crypto Fash” with its fucking enormous opening, is very nearly that song. This is a killer record, a must-listen for fans of noise rock and the like. I’m still just waiting for that last push that, like Chat Pile most recently, finally breaks them wide open.
Label: Thrill Jockey
Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.