[sic] Magazine

Ex-Cult – Negative Growth

Having already completed the garage trinity with previous releases on Castle Face and Goner, Memphis punks Ex-Cult now return to label institution In The Red for their third LP, Negative Growth. Dedicated, so says frontman and lyricist Chris Shaw, to “fear and deception”, it’s a heavy collection of nine no-nonsense tracks recorded by no other than Ty Segall – the very same with whom Shaw shares a line-up as part of GØGGS. Retaining the higher budget production of 2014’s Midnight Passenger rather than Ex-Cult’s raw S/T debut, Segall nevertheless oversees a hands-off process where the percussion in particular manages to sound both leaden and damp. Guitars, on the other hand, are set to scorch in a style similar to that of Destruction Unit.

Shaw’s familiar yap and atonal bark lend Negative Growth its furious punk notes, the shouty riot that ensues as frenetic as it nuanced. Most tracks follow a full-frontal template of blown-out bass grooves, punchy political nihilism and hot blasts of guitar than you just know will be dynamite live. Each track, however, is distinguished by trace elements: fast and furious riffing like that of Jay Reatard in “Mr. Investigator”; a punchy lead single that unravels just as soon as it climaxes; vocal echo that stretches Shaw out to silly proportions and/or irradiating feedback drones that needle away like apocalyptic post-punk. On “Panic In Pig Park” Shaw spits bile to the point of hardcore in between bleak passages of churning noise, while the tumble of sharp guitar barbs on “Hollywood Heatseeker” are a veritable missile aimed straight at the heart of vanity. Leading on from three minutes of nightmarish majesty that slop out of the speakers, album highlight and closer “New Face On” initially slows down the tempo to a snaking snarl, the track circling the drain until it hits terminal velocity and becomes downright dangerous. Negative Growth has the momentum of an incoming asteroid; it looms into view, consuming all air and light. And, at its static-filled finale, there’s ominously nothing left save a crushing, burning mass and red-lining noise.

Best track: “New Face On”

~Negative Growth is released September 23rd via In The Red.~