REVIEW: DISCHARGE – “End Of Days”
British hardcore punk band Discharge, first formed in the late 1970s during the original peak of the genre’s popularity, is probably not the first band that would come to mind when thinking of groups that influenced heavy metal. However, Discharge is more important to our world than perhaps originally thought, having influenced numerous acts since such as Anthrax, Sepultura, Napalm Death, Metallica, Machine Head, and many others. Having released a total of six studio albums, including the 1982 classic ‘Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing ‘(which inspired many of the important aforementioned bands), Discharge is now back in 2016 with ‘End of Days’, their seventh full-length record.
Opening with the track “New World Order”, the general vibe of the song is given away right from the get-go, with a more thrash metal approach to the proceedings instead of the traditional punk sound which some may have been expecting. The vocal style on display by singer Jeff “J.J.” Janiak stays true to the ethics of the genre that Discharge first emerged from, but the inclusion of intense double-bass drumming and guitar solos show that the band have made an effort to differentiate themselves from that original musical flavour and are keen to adopt new instrumental themes into their music. “Raped and Pillaged” comes next, and no change in unrelenting speed and pace has been made to this one, with the track roaring along at the same kind of velocity as heard on the album’s opener. Rest assured that the fury that has come to define punk and hardcore music since its creation in the 1970s and 1980s by legendary acts such as The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Black Flag and others, is still here going strong.
“End of Days” (the record’s title track) opens with a spoken-word announcement regarding the possible deployment of nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, this is followed by frantic rock drumming and a fuzzy guitar rhythm accompanied by the familiar hardcore-style vocals that sit on top of the instrumentation formulated by the musicians in Discharge, namely guitarists Terence and Anthony Roberts, drummer David Caution, and bassist Royston Wainwright. “The Broken Law” doesn’t waste any time in terms of settling into a catchy and memorable groove where the vocal line directly copies the rhythm adopted by the band’s musicians. It’s also quite clear that the influence for this record, in terms of its general sound, revolves around one acclaimed US thrash group: Anthrax. I feel that if you enjoy Anthrax, but are looking for a band that rips like they do in terms of instrumental tone but with punk-type vocals, this album may float your boat.
“False Flag Entertainment”, the fifth song on ‘End of Days’, is filled with punk sensibility and a very Motorhead-type approach to the proceedings, and it is comforting to know that Discharge are taking inspiration from bands of the same style that have come up with a set of musical ideals which have been proven to work extremely well. “Meet Your Maker” directly follows “False Flag Entertainment”, and the vocals haven’t sat this well over the riveting instrumentation so far in the record’s duration, so kudos to the producer for this particular feat. The guitar sound also sounds noticeably clear during the guitar solo, which is very important and displays an attention to detail that can’t not be appreciated. Following this is the album’s seventh track, entitled “Hatebomb”. The riffing in this one is something to be expected, with the general rhythm being a staple of the punk rock genre. If you dig unrelenting, fast and ferocious rock music that goes straight to the throat, “Hatebomb” could become one of your favourite songs across the entirety of ‘End of Days’.
“It Can’t Happen Here” (the record’s eighth song) opens with a repetitive guitar riff and drum pattern which continues from the beginning of the track until the vocals kick in –not too long after the musical proceedings have gotten underway. The musicianship and instrumentation is generally incredibly fast and relentless, as are the vocals, making for a nice overall listening experience as vocalist Jeff “J.J.” Janiak wails out the song’s title in dynamic hardcore style. Moving on, the track which follows directly from “It Can’t Happen Here” is entitled “Infected”, starting off with guitar work which borrows as much influence from classic 1980s thrash metal as it does from contemporary alternative rock in the vein of Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, and bands like them. There is only so much that can be done with a sound such as hardcore punk, but it is relieving to know that so far into their career Discharge are pushing themselves musically to be able to incorporate as many different influences from across the entire spectrum of rock music as they possibly can. The guitar solo two-thirds of the way through “Infected” also sounds very pleasing.
“Killing Yourself to Live” continues on the album’s general theme of unrelenting, overall chaotically-fast punk rock music, with the thrashing speed of the guitars and the drums never slowing down in order to compensate for the equally-aggressive vocals which revolve around the repeated yelling of the song’s title. The guitar solo in this particular track borrows many elements from American thrash kings Slayer in that it is definitely not a carefully constructed piece of instrumentation but rather a ferocious attack on the senses. “Looking at Pictures of Genocide” is the eleventh song on End of Days and brings along with it a pleasant change, namely the modified guitar tone which sounds like nothing else on the record so far. This sudden and unexpected diversion is significantly more beneficial than some may think, as it revolutionises the mood of the song and makes the listener surprisingly anticipatory for what may come as the final batch of tracks on the record make themselves heard.
“Hung, Drawn and Quartered” could be considered a round-up of all of the musical elements that have come to define ‘End of Days’ so far –nasty-sounding vocals, rapid guitar riffs, and fast-paced drumming –but this track also brings to the table some interesting time signature changes that when paired up with the vocal styles and musicianship make for one of the more experimental listening experiences that you will hear across the entirety of this new Discharge album. “Population Control” is when the record really begins to approach its end. There is only so much one can say about an album of songs which rely on the same musical mechanics to power themselves from beginning to end, but what I will say is that if you have enjoyed the previous songs on this record, it’s quite likely that “Population Control” will strike a nerve with you. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
The penultimate track on Discharge’s new album ‘End of Days’ is entitled “The Terror Alert”, and initially seems to mix elements of traditional punk rock and hardcore. Of course, the surprisingly virtuosic guitar solos, that are quite the departure from what you would expect to hear in the simple, three-chord punk rock genre, are back in this song, which then lead to a quick burst of vocals from singer Jeff “J.J.” Janiak before the track halts to a stop. The final track on ‘End of Days’ is entitled “Accessories by Molotov (Part 2)” and appears, musically, to have a very thrash-metal like guitar tone, in the spirit of the classic New York band Anthrax more than any other particular set of musicians. Group this type of musicianship and general instrumental flavour with guitar tones that are very Metallica-like, and this is the overall theme of what you should expect this track to sound like.
For a band which first emerged onto the punk and hardcore scene decades ago in 1977, during perhaps the golden year of the genre in terms of cultural and musical significance, Discharge has done a fine job of keeping themselves relevant many years later, while also incorporating elements from the bands that they have come to influence, namely Anthrax, Metallica and others. The inclusion of technical guitar solos on a record in a genre known for its absence of virtuosity is also pleasing to hear, so if you’re a fan of punk, hardcore, thrash metal or similar genres, this album is worth your time.