(Austin Weber reviews the new album by NY’s Buckshot Facelift.)
When I was fortunate enough to see (and cover here at NCS) the Artificial Brain, Pyrrhon, and Gigan tour in Covington, Ky, a few weeks back, I also had the honor of speaking with Artificial Brain swamp monster/wookie/vocalist Will Smith. He even gave me a copy of his old band Biolich’s material, a group I adored long before Artificial Brain or Buckshot Facelift came into existence. I’ll embed a song by them at the end of this review for those interested. (The band started out as a Demilich worship act, but evolved into something much more eclectic later on. Biolich even had the superbly talented guitarist Andrew Hock (Castavet) in their ranks, but not ￼many know that either.)
But to get back on topic, in the course of our conversation Will let me know that his other band, Buckshot Facelift, had a new EP coming out soon. He graciously gave me a physical copy in order to check it out — under one condition: He told me to be honest with how I felt about it. And honestly, its fucking awesome, hence this review.
It’s clear from Living Ghosts of the North Shore that this is the work of a top-shelf grind band who don’t fall prey to one of the dangers that go hand-in-hand with the main strength of grind, a risk that so often becomes its weakness in lesser hands — favoring speed over memorable substance.
What Buckshot Facelift deliver here is a lot more diverse and off the beaten path, not falling within the typical punk end of the grind spectrum, nor delivering purely short songs. While there is a fair bit of death metal meat and heft to Living Ghosts of the North Shore, it’s not presented in a way that deathgrind typically sounds like, in style or in structure. As it appears here, it’s more like a monstrous slab of flesh surrounding and sloshing about between spirited grind bursts.
It’s hard to compare Buckshot Facelift to anyone, and that’s a good thing. About the best I could come up with is Cephalic Carnage, not to a T, but as a way of describing their spastic, all-over-the-place, unique songwriting and their odd manner of smashing death metal and grind together, specifically the way in which they did this on their earlier albums such as Lucid Interval.
In addition to the large death metal presence, they sandwich in a few brutal/slam parts, with a healthy appetite for power-violence, and they bring in some old-school hardcore, a tad bit of sludge/doominess, occasionally dressing things up with shades of black metal, and allowing a funkified high-in-the mix bass presence to contrast with the savage, winding tunes.
But beyond their unusual sonic ingredients, it’s their impressive and mature songwriting that puts Buckshot Facelift in a class of their own.
Opener and title track, “Living Ghosts of the North Shore”, hits with a lumbering death metal weight and swagger right from the start, with a churning, thick beginning that makes clear from the onset that this isn’t grind-by-numbers, but is instead one of those rare grind acts with a unique identity all their own. And I say that as a hardcore grind fan with no qualms about the typical grindcore formula and presentation.
The next track, “Exorcism On The Hudson”, follows the titanic crushing beatdown exhibited on the first track, although it conveys a more somber tone. Following that is a shorter, swifter grind track, “Slithering Stallion”, which is accented by some killer slap bass parts and sonic echoes of Brutal Truth, a delectably spasmodic addition to the EP.
Buckshot Facelift switch things up again on “15,000 Missing”, a sprawling track that follows a doomier course. Also atypical for grind is the inclusion of a non-filler instrumental track, “Sacrificial Specimen”, a moody piece whose ghostly, sparse atmosphere looms with sad longing and desire. It sounds a somber note that oddly enough fits within the context and theme of the album.
“I Left My Heart In El Paso” then picks up the pace again, offering a savage shot of adrenaline spiked with some melody, a rocking guitar solo, and a finale with a massive slam and guttural slop outro.
In a grind EP full of multi-faceted and interesting instrumental performances, it would take someone really special who brings a lot to the table vocally to fit their sound. Fortunately for the band, they have Will from Artificial Brain as their vocalist. In my opinion, he is one of the very best, as well as one of the few singularly recognizable, death metal vocalists.
His forte is belching out disgusting gurgle squealed slop vomit vocals that are cavernous, ghastly, and memorably phrased. He belts out a bit more burly growls and screams than in his performance on this year’s killer Labyrinth Constellation, but a lot of the sloppy sickness can be found all throughout Ghosts of the Northern Shore. To be fair, their lineup credits suggest that the other members also perform additional vocals, so perhaps some of those parts I’m hearing that sound different for Will Smith could be the other members some of the time.
Buckshot Facelift are onto something very special with Living Ghosts of the North Shore. I’d easily rank them among my very favorite grind bands now, and oddly and ironically enough, it’s because of how far away they are from your typical grind band.