The Orchard – Dead Town EP

Their name may lead you to assume that they’re whimsical yodelling milksops with more beard than bollocks, but don’t be fooled – The Orchard will have your guts for garters. Their debut release, full of menacing, claustrophobic riffs and paint-stripping snarl, finds an unlikely balance between raw fury and chemically slackened sludge. They sound like Black Flag on thorazine, or Kyuss if someone had set them on fire.

Although a large chunk of their sound is borrowed from contemporary hardcore like the Cancer Bats, they also straddle both extremes of 80’s metal with a confident swagger. The hardcore in their sound may be missing some of the rotten, feral crudeness it brandished back then, but thankfully there’s no trace of glitzy cheese in what they’ve borrowed from glam metal – just squealing Slash-style guitar solos and the neanderthal thunk of wide, lumbering drums.

When listening to music this full of passionate brutality, I’m sometimes too soaked up in the rhythm section’s guttural power to decipher much meaning from the throat-splitting going on in the front line. However, behind frontman Andy McQueen’s Frank Carter-like barks and gargles, I can’t help but notice (and be disappointed by) a cascade of lyrical clichés and occasional moments of bewildering awkwardness – such as the denouncement of their hometown as a ‘disgrace to the queen’s crown’. Even the concept of a ‘dead town’ itself is well past sloppy seconds – Alexisonfire, The Hope Conspiracy, Patti Smith and The Exploited have already drained its last reserves of poetic novelty.

It may have space for improvement, but for the first release of a band formed only in February, ‘Dead Town’ is an impressive piece of headbanging anti-beauty. If they’re stuffing themselves with as much ketamine and high grade as their music suggests, let’s just hope they stay conscious enough to make another.