18 February 2013
by David Keevill
For every band (and there are more than a fair few now) who list the name Kurt Ballou among the production credits in their album’s sleeve notes, there are significantly more who have tried and failed to secure his servics. As it stands, the prolific producer and guitarist for Converge continues to bear a weighty impact on every release he commits to, claiming production and recording credits on a staggering number of hardcore/crust albums that you’ve loved in recent years. Yet, on every album that Ballou’s given his blessing to, it’s his unvoiced testimony to the vitality of the band’s musical kernel that has screamed the loudest; Baptists’ debut album is no different.
Bushcraft wields a sound that sits between the sawing grind of Trap Them and the pulsating rhythmic punk strains of Cursed, held together with a production so vital and live that you can practically taste the moment’s old sweat still hanging in the air. The thick, suffocating veneer that permeates every track adds to the volatile musicianship that comes tearing to the surface through this membranous sludge. The album is brief; punchy, balls-to-the-wall tracks like ‘Think Tank Breed’, ‘Mortar Head’ and ‘Crutching Trails’ barely clock in over a minute and half, and there are only two songs with more than three minutes to their name. Riffs are mulchy and full of gristle which is never more obvious than on the sickening sludge of ‘Soiled Roots’.
While guitar and vocals establish the grotesque climate of the record, it’s the drums that are the album’s volatile heartbeat, and as such, provide standout points across the eleven frenetic tracks; they deliver obscene velocity to the opening barrage of ‘Betterment’ whilst the languorous beat and rolls of ‘Still Melt’ capture a rare, but lurching pace that then explodes into ‘Mortar Head’. Although all the parts are measured to a tee, which is apparent in how the album peaks and troughs, everything is so vivid and unpredictable that you constantly feel on the verge of voiding yourself of every internal organ.
Bushcraft is immediate and lacks any pretension or open-endedness which is so tangibly bred from hours and hours of playing tiny, stinking cellars on an endless tour circuit across the US. As such, it’s difficult not to feel the vitality that seeps out of every track. If crust or hardcore are your cup of tea, then Baptists might have just started your year in a very, very good way.
Sounds like: Cursed, Trap Them, Brotherhood of the Lake.
Standout Tracks: Bullets, Think Tank Breed, Mortar Head.