The four men behind Cruickshank don’t advertise their resumes, though they’re definitely not newcomers to heavy music. They’re Canadian, but probably don’t dwell in Iqaluit, Nunavut, despite what their Bandcamp page says. They obviously don’t feel confined by genre boundaries in their music, nor by any commitment to orderly song structures. In fact, the tracks on their self-titled debut album are so riotously unchained that it’s hard to imagine how they were conceived and planned out, and almost equally hard to imagine how they were executed so immaculately.
As the album blasts its way through your skull like an unstoppable juggernaut, you can grasp elements of sludge, doom, hardcore, grind, noise rock, punk, and probably some other ingredients, if you’re interested in trying to locate the songs in a genre grid. But good luck trying to come up with a hyphenated genre descriptor that you could rattle off your tongue without getting your tongue twisted. Even just trying to meticulously follow the path of the songs would be a twisted exercise. It’s better to just abandon any temptation to dissect the songs or figure out what inspired them. Turn off the rational calculator in your head and just allow yourself to be bludgeoned and bamboozled.
As musically bludgeoning experiences go, Cruickshank is high up on the charts. Powered by a massively sludgy bass tone and dialed-up guitar distortion with its own rock-crushing heaviness, the music often sounds like the workings of a pulverizing demolition machine. The bursts of pile-driving, jackhammering groove turn the songs (albeit briefly) into stupefying bone-smashers. The music is crushing in other ways as well. There are moaning, groaning, dragging chords and wraith-like quivering leads in the mix that convey abject misery.
Yet these bruising sensations are only part of the story. This terrifying tale includes paroxysms of deranged violence — eruptions of shrill discordance, blaring and soaring melody, circle-saw riffing, and explosive drum mania. The vocals, a combination of throat-lacerating screams and scarring, teeth-baring snarls, sound deranged all the time.
In all these ways the album hits really, really hard. Three of the song titles are “Hard Damage”, “Nothing Survives”, and “Real Heavy Thing”, and those words aren’t false advertising. Yet it’s still not the full story. As previewed above, a big part of what makes the album so electrifying is how rapidly veering and often intricate the songs are, and how technically impressive the performances are. The musicians create fascinating interplays and trade-offs in what they’re doing, while nearly always returning to bouts of black-eyed brutishness.
Without meaning to diminish the skill of the other performers (guitarist Marc Bourgon (ex-Fuck the Facts/Current Greber), bassist Scott Miller, and vocalist Graham Christian), special mention must be made of the jaw-dropping performance of drummer (and co-vocalist) Mark McGee. The tempos of these songs are in constant flux, and he turns on a dime with aplomb, but the extravagant variety of the drum fills is what really stands out. They change just as fast — moving among rocking grooves, eye-popping acrobatic flurries, punk gallops, brutal blast-a-thons, and a lot more. Pick any song (other than the surprising “Soviet Reunion”, which is a soft and bewitching guitar-and-bass instrumental), and you’ll see what I mean.
There’s obvious chemistry among this foursome. Without it, there’s no way these songs could have been written or executed so well. It’s crazy stuff, but never goes off the rails. You could scratch your head figuring out how they pulled that off, too, but it’s better to simply hang on for dear life and enjoy the ride.
Cruickshank’s debut album will be released on August 16th, digitally and on cassette tape by Ancient Temple Recordings and No Why Records. Pre-orders can be placed at these locations: