The jagged and dramatic rock on Thank God's challenging new collection Ice/Age will surely earn the band a very strange and loyal cult following. Some listeners might dismiss the hardcore tangle of shrieking vocals, distorted guitar sounds, and fiery drum beats as simply a mishmash of random blasts of noise that possess no musical merit or value. Others might latch onto the wild and extreme dynamic of the album.
Based in Charleston and Columbia, the punk/hardcore quintet has been pushing their weird reworkings of various punk, metal, and hardcore formulas for years. Recorded over the last year and a half at the Jam Room in Columbia, Ice/Age takes the band's ideas, instrumentation, and arrangements to another level. Exotic Fever Records released the disc in July, bragging about the band's "hypnotic post-rock dynamics" in their press releases. More jarring than hypnotic, the tracks certainly cover a lot of unexplored post-rock territory.
Ice/Age leaps into action with the anguished title track, a sinister scream-laden prog-punk workout. With rhythms based in fours, fives, and sevens, the drums and guitars sound like King Crimson in a shitstorm, flailing at unnaturally high speeds. "Chicken Dance" and "Cash Mere" carry on in similarly angular fashion; each one is peppered with sudden stops, starts, shouts, and dense amplifier feedback.
At the midway point, the atmospheric "One Half" veers into a more ambient and less hectic direction. "Set/Go" swirls at a slower speed than the kick-off tunes, recalling some of the heaviest-hitting, brain-damaging experiments from Mission of Burma, Clockhammer, and the Melvins. Thank God rocks out with precision and muscle on "Shit" and gets grungy on the smokier and anthemic "Buy/Sell."
Ice/Age detours even farther away from the typical loud 'n' fast approach with a seven-minute trilogy titled "Hugo Chavez." Part one gradually gathers steam thanks to the use of an exotic-sounding saxophone and brass. Part two relies on a steady drum pattern, guitar harmonics, and shrill feedback. Part three kicks back into full-on screamo.
Thank God has mutated quite a bit in recent years, but the band has never lost its grip on what it does best. The music rips and roars, but the band stays tight within the noisiness. They obviously put serious effort into arranging these tracks, and they seem to have a game plan and a goal in sight, although one shudders at the thought of the band's final musical destination. (myspace.com/thnkgod)
Thank God plays at the New Brookland Tavern in Columbia on Wed. Sept. 1 before embarking on an East Coast tour.