Release Date: September 11th, 2015
Label: Buzz Records
In the first season of HBO’s The Wire, Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell declares the state of affairs in Baltimore by claiming that “the gods will not save you” while in that city. In the streets or in your home, the gods will not be there to protect you from whatever comes. HSY’s debut album Bask solidifies that declaration in the creation of their own grey and hellish realm. The Toronto-based sludge punk band manages to pull listeners into skid row, having those daring enough hover by grimy warehouses in order to listen to the perils inside. The noises from the buildings are highly ambiguous, but incredibly nerve-wracking. People will feel like they’ve stumbled into an episode of Beyond Scared Straight. Convicts are replaced with drug-addled fiends without orange attire and the neighbourhood is one big jail cell. The short of it is that HSY handle scary well.
The album starts appropriately with “Intro.” Meshes of static and an alert siren are reminiscent of the Death Grips track “The Fever (Aye Aye),” prompting listeners to brace themselves for something virus-like. When “Acid Peel” comes around, with its trash compactor sounds and almost psychedelic feel, we get the first dose of scowling. The guitars want to feel abrasive, but they have yet to reach that threshold. When “Slush Puppies” comes along there is more of a sludgy backdrop to it, indicating that the album wants to slowly drag the audience into its Tartarus-esque pits. The track, however, feels like a long preview that dies out kind of like the cops reported the band for noise pollution and HSY obliged with the request to tone it down.
I’d be remiss in forgetting to mention that feedback and dark, low bass are ubiquitous facets to this record that makes it a great pick for the Halloween album you play to scare the kiddies while they pick up their candy. There’s also that feeling that the band is channelling their inner Sonic Youth with their gritty guitars, bringing to mind a track like “Kool Thing,” if said track were distorted to the max.
“Feeder” turns vocalist Anna Mayberry into a snivelling fiend, one whose presence is complete with more industrial sounds. The track is meant to elicit discomfort in the listener. You’re meant to feel like a goblin-like woman has been following you on an almost desolate sidewalk for a while and won’t yield to your hastened jog. “Cyber Bully” and “Sally” also feel like this, with a more punk tone to its dirty vocals. The freaky part is that “Sally’s all over town,” according to the lyrics, and you’re bound to run into her and wish that this record was lying about her existence. It kind of makes you want to avoid Sallys in general. “Scratch” and “Woulda Coulda” are tracks that make you want to mosh and lose all your inhibitions. There’s a bone-crushing drumming in the former and an anthemic-like drumming in the latter.
Then the album shifts gears a bit…
“Interlude” uses ominous bass to bring about a diatribe that feels like if Tai Lopez, that annoying YouTuber that talks about his Lamborghinis and knowledge, was on PCP and started raving. The narrator becomes a filthy person that, apparently, hasn’t changed or showered for weeks. This makes sense when “Valour” comes around, a track with an evil to it that the rest of the album failed to muster. Somehow HSY channelled something that drone metal band Sunn 0))) could genuinely be proud of if they were to listen to it. Sounds fold into each other while haunting zombie vocals caress you. Instead of hovering before mouldy and condemned warehouses, you’re in one, being smothered by grotesque arms and lifeless eyes.
The album loses traction with Dr DETH, even with its night terror quality. There’s the woofing that’s adored on previous tracks, but it feels more like filler. “Borg,” the closer, is the same pattern of drumming and bass along a seven-minute diatribe that’s expanded from “Interlude.” It has punk sentimentality to it, but that’s it. It’s like a far right-leaning old man being distressed by how his gun rights are being challenged. He’s in front of a court building and you look at him for a while and move along. But you can’t move along in case he has something interesting to say…
He doesn’t. And neither does Jude, the lead of the band.
Still, Bask is a very good debut album from HSY. The band genuinely take on darkness and let loose what they experience in their hearts, which makes the drop in quality after “Valour” so interesting: the band is psychologically tired and desiring to remove all of that emotional debt from their system. They drew energy from a godless place, and listeners should know that no help is coming for them when taking on this record.