(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by Expander (from Austin, Texas), which Profound Lore Records released on August 21st.)
We don’t often cover much Thrash, or Thrash-adjacent, material here at NCS. For whatever reason it’s something of a blind spot in our regular coverage, and it generally takes a particularly special (or audaciously strange) example of the style to attract our attention.
As you might have guessed, Neuropunk Boostergang is one such example, which is why, just a week after its official release, I’ve decided to write a few words about it.
Of course the fact that we’re turning our gaze towards the realm of Thrash right now, just after the sad and untimely passing of Power Trip frontman Riley Gale, adds an extra dose of poignancy to this write-up, especially when you consider that, much as PT could never be fully summed up by the over-simplistic “Thrash” tag most often applied to their music, likewise Expander don’t fit neatly within the confines of the genre either.
Which is probably why I like them so much.
Let’s be clear right from the start, whether you think the label fits, or not, this assuredly ain’t your daddy’s Thrash (hell, the band themselves seem to prefer the term “Metalpunk” anyway).
Don’t get me wrong, Neuropunk Boostergang is practically overflowing with thrashing-like-a-maniac, whiplash-inducing energy (and then some), but don’t expect to hear any divebombing Slayer solos or rhythmic right-hand Hetfield rhythms.
What you’ll find instead are ten tracks of Post-Punk Cyber-Crust that are more Voivod than Vio-lence, and more likely to appeal to fans of Oranssi Pazuzu than fans of Overkill, whose anarchic anti-aesthetic seems to be inspired as much by William Gibson and 2000AD as it is Big Black and Sonic Youth.
In lesser hands this gene-spliced melange of influences and inspirations would just be so much empty sound and fury but, much like the eye-catching, five-dimensional artwork which adorns the album’s cover, Expander quickly prove themselves to possess a unique gift for painting an impressively coherent picture using an extremely vivid and varied array of chaotic, clashing colours.
In fact, in many ways Neuropunk Boostergang is the musical equivalent of one of the “magic eye” pictures that were popular for a hot minute back in the ’90s – at first glance you might not see (or, to be more accurate, hear) anything which makes any sense, but look/listen long enough and a sense of the record’s true shape and structure starts to resolve itself, beginning with the recursive riffs and twitchy percussive patterns of opener “Wretched Warez”.
This is followed in quick succession by the ballsy, bass-driven stomp of “Megacorp” and the propulsive Thrash-Punk attack of “Hyper-Flesh Aedicium”, which help establish the album’s foundational fundamentals and early momentum, while also sneaking in some subtly proggy and psychedelic touches just under the radar.
And while “Waste Ranger” manages to successfully mash up the psycho-punk swagger of Mantar with a thrashy attack that’s more Psychotic Waltz than “Toxic Waltz”, it’s the mutant hybrid of Post-Punk, Black Metal, and Noise Rock which is “Cryptosteal” which really signifies where things start to go haywire, with the band stepping well outside of Thrash’s normal operating parameters.
But, as third-eye-opening as Expander’s approach is, they’re also not afraid to just rock out either, to the point where tracks like “Loyalty Illusion” and “Rejunkulizer”, for all their noisesome nuances and frenetic, freaked-out vibes, sound like someone started a riot in a riff-factory and invited everyone they knew to the party!
The band, of course, save the very best until last, beginning the final countdown with a title track that sounds like (hype mode engaged) some sort of unholy fusion of all the very best bits of Coroner, Killing Joke, and Nachtmystium.
This is then followed by “Obsoletor”, arguably the album’s most impressively aggressive and cantankerously crusty cut, after which the record’s timewarping finale, “C.O.III: Quest for a Future”, manages to fill out over eight minutes of music with practically every idea, influence, and inspiration in the band’s overstuffed arsenal, while only feeling half that long!
If it hasn’t already been made abundantly clear, this is one album that’s very hard to pin down. No matter what box you try and put it in, it always manages to quickly break out of it, meaning I’m still not sure exactly how to describe it (even though I’ve already spent several hundred words trying to do so).
What I do know is this – Expander are definitely something special, and are quite clearly operating on an entirely different wavelength to most of what’s out there today.
So, droogs and droogettes, if you want a picture of the future, gland some Quicken, keep a can of Ubik on standby, and get ready to jack in to the weird world of Neuropunk Boostergang!