Tangled Talk Records/Holy Roar Records
03 September 2010
by Hugh Platt
The last time I saw an underground band tear it apart live with the vigour and intensity that Bastions currently display, I was watching a young Gallows smacking the shit out of some toilet venue in the northern reaches of London. With a brace of face-breakingly good EPs already under their belt, with Island Living Bastions are once again showing why they’re the best British band you’ve probably never heard of.
Unlike Gallows though, Bastions intensity doesn’t come from a spit’n’rage fuck-you fury, but from a grimmer, more intense, altogether more malevolent form of destructive introspection. It’s wholly apt that Bastions recorded Island Living in producer Ben Phillips’ Lightship95, a studio in the belly of reconditioned lightvessel moored in East London. It is particularly apt that such a piece of work was recorded at arm’s length from the British mainland, whilst simultaneously in the guts of a vessel designed to guide lost souls in the direction of safety. Island Living stands apart from so much of what so much of the UK is producing right now, but perversely it is a beacon for a direction the UK ought to be heading for.
Throughout the EP, Jamie Burne’s obvious loathing and contempt at becoming another cog on the machine of small town life is played out through his larynx-crippling roars. When I last saw Bastions play live, Burne was dragging his mic stand across the floor like it was a crucifix he planned on nailing himself to. Couple with the feverish guitar playing of Jamie McDonald, and Danny Garrod’s rankly terrifying drum playing (bashing his kit with the look of a hammer murderer in his eye), and you’ve got the thrilling prospect of a band whose studio recordings can live up to – if not outmatch – the impressively high bar set by their live performances.
From its opening moments to it’s funeral-bleak conclusion, Island Living turns its nose up at the conventions of hardcore. Rather than relying on simply uncompromising bursts of fist-knotted aggression (as we know Bastions are more than capable of), the EP’s closing track, ‘The Great Unwashed’, instead takes the form of a hulking, brooding bastard piece of Cult of Luna-esque post-metal. The track’s barren riffing only goes to emphasise Jamie Burne’s bleak message: “I can see myself in you, and that’s what scares me the most. Wherever I am, dreams become wasted hopes”. On the surface it might seem like the track is just about life on Anglesey, but it’s not. This is about everywhere.
Watch Thrash Hits TV: Bastions recording on Lightship95:
The EPs other two tracks – the eponymous ‘Island Living’ and ‘Soar’, might follow a more traditional hardcore template, but they also eschew any of the currently fashionable inflections that persist among young UK bands. There’s no taint of southern rock in the high-strung light’n’shade of ‘Island Living’, or any revisionist Black Flag rip-off going on in the bleakly-keyed beatdowns of ‘Soar’.
To lump Bastions in with most other UK hardcore sells them far too short – just typing that sentence caused me to audibly scoff at the sheer inadequacy of the concept. Island Living is 10 minutes of the purest, most vitriolic embodiment of small-town hate – and even that most loaded of words, hate, seems too small for the breadth of feeling levelled on this EP – you’ll have heard for years. It is beyond essential.
Sounds Like: The Chariot, Cult Of Luna, Bastions
Top Track: The Great Unwashed
Bastions – Island Living tracklisting:
The Great Unwashed