Based on their appearance on the Relapse grindcore series This Comp Kills Fascists, one might reach the easy conclusion that Owen Hart is a grindcore band. And to some degree, this is correct, but it only tells part of the story behind this incredible Tacoma, Wash., outfit. At the breakneck extreme metal game since 2004, Owen Hart tackles a style that brings together the furious speeds of grindcore, the righteous riffage of classic thrash metal, an occasional breakdown of low-end doom, a flurry of blast beats, and any number of other technical or stylistic shifts they’ve got up their sleeves.
After six years, that noxious melting pot comes to a boil on first proper full-length, Earth Control, a surprisingly complete and cohesive statement given the varied influences pouring into the band’s sonic assault. Guitarists Tony Wolff and Rusty Graeff deftly leap from death metal riffs to hardcore-style power chord chugs, providing a frequently shifting landscape over which Timm Trust screeches his indecipherable but nonetheless impressive shrieks. And surprises abound everywhere, from moody instrumental opener “I, Nameless” to the acoustic outro in the intense “Welcome to Worthless-Piece-of-Shit-ville, Population: You.” And on that note, very few song titles on this album aren’t absolutely absurd, be it “Poor White Straight Guy” or “Evolution’s a Fact, Jack.”
The album soars to a menacing, visceral surge on the second track and first absolute ripper, “44 Black,” which turns on a dime from metalcore blast to old school heavy metal shuffle. On the opposite spectrum, “Bomb Bay Beach” chugs at a harrowing crawl, with Trust whispering dread-laced lines like “This road winds into the night, but all lead to nowhere.” The deathcore blast of “Fuck Morrissey, Fuck The Smiths, Fuck The Cure” balances deft technical explosiveness with some badass death ‘n’ roll hooks, and “Methlahem” likewise carries that Satanic boogie with some massive hooks of its own.
Offering something for just about everyone, save for the squeamish and devoutly religious, Owen Hart delivers their style of extreme metal in malleable but highly impressive forms. Both old school and maintaining an eye on the future of all things loud and terrifying, Owen Hart has put together a powerful, destructive first album that shows off their many strengths while rocking as hard as humanly possible.
Pig Destroyer – Phantom Limb
Slayer – Hell Awaits
Converge – Petitioning The Empty Sky
Listen: Owen Hart – MySpace
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.