Barnsley misanthropes System of Hate purvey what the press release accompanying this album describes as ‘aphotic power punk’; As I’m sure you’re aware the word aphotic refers to that portion of underwater ‘inner space’ where less than 1% of sunlight penetrates the depths. And if Unhallowed Ground isn’t as resolutely stygian as such an adjective might denote, it’s pretty bloody close. If you’ve had your fill of Call the Midwife-fuelled Christmas cheer for one year, this is surely the album to cancel out any traces of the feelgood factor in your system.
Overcoming the considerable handicap of bassist Paddy’s resemblance to celebrity baker Paul Hollywood, the band bring together an exciting mix of Killing Joke, Amebix and Joy Division to create a cold, unloving, synthwashed post punk backdrop to the excellent vocals of Dave, who barks out his tales of woe – again referring to that press release, he’s baring the heart of South Yorkshire to us all, exhorting us to watch it bleed – in suitably careworn fashion.
Tracks like Crucified and Antichrist are excellent, aggressive soundclashes taking place at the junction where agit punk and gothic romanticism meet, all droning guitars and low slung bass menace, whilst Zealot’s Path adds some honking sax to give a surprise, though undoubtedly welcome whiff of The Psychedelic Furs to proceedings.
Mutilation is shorter, sharper and altogether more punked-up, whilst the excellent Killing Fields, despite weighing in at only three minutes in length has a real epic feel to it; In fact the closing title track that follows …Fields, Unhallowed Ground, is something of an epic – at seven and a quarter minutes long it’s by far the longest song on the album – and the two songs mesh together well to close the album in brooding, portentous fashion – Even if that closing track does ostentatiously press gang the bassline to Joy Division’s Transmission into service as it’s intro! But that aside, the track is a monster, and I can see many a dive bar dancefloor rammed to the gills with off-their-gourds-on-cider punx and goths falling under it’s hypnotic sway in 2017!
Great stuff then, especially for fans of fans of the punk and post-punk of the early eighties. And old miseries like me.