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Evil Blizzard
The Dangers Of Evil Blizzard Noel Gardner , April 15th, 2014 08:31

As the old saying goes, if you can't exercise probable confirmation bias in an online album review, where can you? The issue at hand: it feels like Lancastrian heavy psych crew Evil Blizzard, having performed live in the region since 2011, have really began to generate chatter in the last eight months or so, in the run-up to this debut album. Coincidentally, or not, I encountered them for the first time roughly eight months ago, on a splintery wooden stage around twilight at Oxfordshire's very laudable Supernormal Festival.

My face began their set stoic and expressionless, and ended up melted. Immense, Al Cisneros-gone-postpunk basslines powered songs ripe-to-bursting with chemical ooze and brainworm vocal mantras; it served, there and then, as a unifying force, but the grotesque latex masks each member wore suggested that a sadistic part of them relished soundtracking someone's bad trip. Towards the end of the set, they were joined onstage by several small children, also wearing masks. Denied the option of forgetting about Evil Blizzard, I've since been waiting for them to commit to disc.

  The Dangers Of Evil Blizzard is released on Louder Than War, a label ran by John Robb of Goldblade and The Membranes. While the band have slight misfit status on LTW's small roster, it's easy enough to see how they fit into Robb's purview, particularly in respect of his Membranes years. Both bands hail from a Lancaster town not renowned for its rock & roll history (The Membranes formed in Blackpool; EB are from Preston), both have thumbed their nose to the idea that this kind of racket is a young man's game (the EB CV includes past membership of myriad nineties also-rans) and both distill a literal ton of influences down into a signature style of exceedingly loud bludgeon. If this album had come out in 1988, which it could have quite feasibly done, certain parts of the UK music press would have called Evil Blizzard an "arsequake" band.

Considering they have four bass players and no guitarists, they would have suited that erstwhile microgenre better than most. The result, though, isn't some masonry-cracking attempt to make you foul yourself – rather, the sixteen strings work together in pursuit of rhythmic propulsion. Broad cosmic vibes aside, at certain points Evil Blizzard judder like old American post-hardcore; elsewhere, the blunt-weapon funk of early-eighties UK postpunk. 'Sleep' starts off like a Joy Division intro and spins off into blippy spacerock, while Mark Whiteside's vocals take a massive, unavoidable bite of PiL-era John Lydon (not for the first time – 'Feed The Flames', which kicks off The Dangers…, layers that paranoid whine over twisted occult rock). 'Slimy Creatures' is tuned tautly enough to hark back to Albini and/or Riley's guitars on Big Black's 'Songs About Fucking', while still managing to loosen the ropes for a lil' hippy wigout. Many would likely consider these twin values incompatible, but Evil Blizzard are not a band given to received wisdom about how rock music "works".

Evil Blizzard's lyrics, such as they are, often serve a function more akin to (say) techno or jungle, an ambiguous phrase to grab onto amidst the bedlam. '(Open Up The) Red Box', which could have lit up a Oneida album such as 'Come On Everybody Let's Rock', is almost six minutes of wah-pedal screech, treetrunk drumming and intoned gibberish about a red box. Why? It sounds rad, is why. 'Clones', in spite of very pointedly making hay from lyrical repetition, is the most talkative song on the album. "We all look the same… we all dress the same… dance the same… live the same… we are CLONES" can be read either as a broadside against modern society or an attempt to cast EB as a mindless, multitudinous military (on balance, I prefer the latter). Similarly, you can treat its boneheaded machine rockabilly as a weirdbeard spin on Devo or The Screamers, or observe that the main riff sounds like 'On A Rope' by Rocket From The Crypt.

Anyone reading this who's already familiar with Evil Blizzard might be thinking that all this talk of chunky, (proto-) punky riffs, feedbacking wigouts and vocal mantras is avoiding the elephant in the room. And indeed, one of the all-time great minor characters in semi-formal music writing – the reviewer's housemate – popped his head round the door during 'Whalebomb', the 19-minute closing number with the heroically bad title, and asked if this was Hawkwind. It isn't (while the song's midsection sounds decidedly similar, the shadow-casting doom riff that kicks in round 14:00 ain't really the style of Dave Brock et al), but they are a spectre which looms especially large over this album.

A wooden stage, a cluster of wreckheads and some mysterious kids together in a country field is kind of a textbook Hawkwind trope, I suppose, but no-one's trying to bring back the free festival days here. Evil Blizzard are just one of several belting British bands of the moment (see also: Gnod, Bong, Hey Colossus and Workin' Man Noise Unit amongst others) who operate according to communal decency and a desire to make people's ears bleed acid.

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