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Oozing Wound
High Anxiety Bernie Brooks , April 24th, 2019 10:41

With their fourth LP, High Anxiety, Chicago rippers Oozing Wound expand their sound and eviscerate, says Bernie Brooks

There's a coda of sorts tacked on to the end of 'Riding The Universe', a gnarly highlight of Oozing Wound's fourth LP, High Anxiety. In it, there's a recording of a beleaguered manager-type or a label guy or something similar. His speech is processed and garbled as he describes a snafu caused by the band's stubborn positioning between thrash metal and noise rock and just-plain-noise. He says, "You know, they like rock concerts. They're saying Oozing Wound is too heavy metal." Too metal for some, not metal enough for others – eight years on, the Wound simply are who they are.

What they aren't is a metal band, not really. Sure, it's relatively easy and expedient to file them away with your metal LPs – thrash! – but they don't quite fit, spiritually or aesthetically. Oozing Wound are a resolutely Midwestern band, a Chicago band. Loathe to shovel shit with a smile, Zack Weil, Kyle Reynolds, and Kevin Cribbin channel all their bile into acid-tongued rippers that slot into a lineage of acerbic Windy City misanthropes like Big Black and Jesus Lizard, of tough-to-pigeonhole Touch And Go staples Naked Raygun and Die Kreuzen. (OK, Die Kreuzen weren't from Chicago, but Milwaukee's only an hour-and-a-half away.) Like their now legendary regional forebears, the Wound play what they play without apology or compromise, confident that some copacetic cynics'll dig it, and that those who don't aren't worth losing sleep over, anyhow.

So, for the uninitiated, what exactly do they play? Stoned noise rock sped way up, leaning hard into thrash metal. The Fall's Three Rs – repetition, repetition, repetition – are paramount, and KARP's Olympian racket looms heavily over the proceedings. Zack Weil doesn't shriek or wail so much as loudly air his grievances. He's over it. He's disgusted. His on-edge, frayed cadence belying a dude one step beyond keeping it cool.

What is Weil sick of? Here he eviscerates himself, you, your band, exploring Mars (and by extension, maybe NASA, maybe Elon Musk), and flat earthers – at minimum. Given their shared predilection for sci-fi imagery, Oozing Wound have always drawn comparisons to Voivod – a no-brainier. But on High Anxiety, Weil ditches sci-fi for the most part, tackling worldly concerns with the same frankness he exhibits as an interviewee. Even when things get slightly cosmic, like they do on 'Die On Mars', there's a direct connection to our current hellworld that can't be ignored. It scans as critique rather than escapism. Weil's always been open about his politics, but this might be the first time you could argue that they've noticeably bled into a Wound LP, and it's better for it. The stakes feel higher.

Musically speaking, radical reinvention isn't Oozing Wound's raison d'etre, so don't expect a new version of the wheel. Instead, there’s willful progression, incremental growth, and renewed focus. After the sprawling Whatever Forever, High Anxiety's comparatively concise seven-track, thirty-four-minute runtime feels super concentrated and highly potent, calling to mind the band's previous high-water mark, Earth Suck. But High Anxiety is no rehash. Incorporating elements like added synths, horns, and even a flute on a couple of tracks, the band takes risks that a lesser group would fumble. Listeners could have winded up with a proggy disaster – something like an angrier version of The Decemberists' The Tain. Mercifully, that's far from the case here. On 'Birth Of A Flat Earther' and 'Vein Ripper', these added elements serve to amplify the band's ferocity, accentuating everything they've done right for years.

If you think about it for a minute, "Oozing Wound" really is a fabulous band name, capable of doing considerable heavy lifting. With a name like that the fans know what they're getting into. It's both a descriptor and a warning. Through their recordings, the Wound are functioning in more or less the same way. Society presents a civilised face, but High Anxiety is an irritated little pustule in the middle of its forehead, signaling to anyone with the stomach to look that things are rotting away on the inside. And really, what could be healthier than that?