The debut album from Melbourne hardcore band Gutter Gods is part of a new wave of Australian punk spearheaded by local label Cool Death. It also perfectly encompasses the joy of physical release, writes MAX EASTON.
I first saw Gutter Gods at last year’s [Maggot Fest](/news/4615546) as one of a damp mass crammed into the unlit upstairs room of the Gaso. They played a 20-minute set with an intro that lasted 15: a slow and indulgent instrumental that drove people to twitching agitation. A hurried push was felt through the crowd, the vocals barked in and the crowd cut immediately and violently to the edges of the room for five minutes of chaos under the bursting flashes of a strobe light. It was over as quickly as it began.
It felt at the time like an intentionally crafted exercise in metered tension, but it came out soon after that it was due to the lateness of their vocalist, who was finishing off a fistfight in a nearby alleyway. If the effect of exciting hardcore often lies in the warped mind of its frontman, then Gutter Gods – with the tattooed scalp and blood knuckles of Allan Cowie – have one of the most demented I’ve seen, and he and his band have an innate ability to induce a riot.
?A movement that has oozed from a stagnant spring of discontent in the past 18 months.?
Innersense* is the first LP not just from Gutter Gods, but of a potential new wave of Australian punk and hardcore spearheaded in Melbourne by the Cool Death Records crew (who have recently released tapes by Dribble, Velvet Whip and Soma Coma). Interstate contemporaries like Sydney’s [Oily Boys](/articles/4614034) (who just released their own 7? *Majesty*), Adelaide’s Simfuckers or Byron Bay’s Gruel all seem to lend credence to a movement that has oozed from a stagnant spring of discontent in the past 18 months. Through timing alone, *Innersense feels like a landmark of something to come country-wide, but even if it proves to be the milestone record of a united front across the nation, it would hardly be the point.
Innersense is not an anti-societal statement of mindless aggression; it’s mostly experiential. From its tacky intro sampling interviews about lucid dreams and alternate realities to the mirrored artwork and relentless space-punk aesthetic of Nathan Williams? guitar, any violence or malevolence seems to stem from a perverse attraction to new experiences, not one of politicised ill-will. It treats its aggressive staples as that of a parallel universe, where expressing and dealing with rage – violently or musically – is every part as important as the seeking out of love or faith; where citizens have been untaught to suppress the primal urge to strike out. It’s an incredibly pure form of selfish exhilaration.
The album’s bizarre intro blends a radio failing to correctly tune into the signature whirr of an overdriven chorus pedal that simmers in tension for what’s to come. What does is ?Virtual Reality?, featuring Cowie’s maniacal barks fading like a tiring pitbull into the band’s ensuing thrashes. The vocals here, and throughout the record, are completely irreconcilable, channeled through the maddened eyes of a taunted hound. It and tracks like ?Hang Out? and ?Rut? slip away intermittently to stretch fingers before finding fists re-clenched; there are always respites to wipe the sweat from the brow. The longest is the staggering ?Allan?, Cowie’s unintelligible manifesto spat over a constancy of feedback. Through the shouts of lines like ?Life is just a dream,? it merges again into the chorus pedal’s absent drone before being shot through by ?Mind Corruption?. The latter alternates between a militarised death march and a slow grind stabbed through by a tuneless harmonica for effect alone. The rest of record features more glitching-out radio sounds, more unintelligible manifestos and then – routinely and at the absence of all else – the riot of the Gutter Gods.
?This record feels like a progressively darkening laugh riot.?
?Chosen Few? is the closest Gutter Gods get to a message (described by Cool Death as their theme song), with Cowie stating succinctly and violently their self-elected place as your savior. It drips with the arrogance of the powered, spitting statements that stamp the hopes of the opposed into the dirt. ?Chosen Few? is also the album’s best, with the wildest and most jaunty drum pattern on the record. At one point, it breaks down into, of all things, handclaps. It seriously has as much in common with something like [?Hey Mickey?](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=WFrmapGCuhs) as it does with Discharge or any Oi! band that make up its more obvious influences. This record has deeper sensibilities than one that sticks to the well-trodden history of discontented youth; Innersense instead feels like a progressively darkening laugh riot.
When recording somewhere as sedate and sterile as a studio (in this case, St. Kilda’s Hot House), much of the spontaneity and rage of a band like Gutter Gods can get lost in translation. But Innersense doesn’t waver, harnessing the giddiness of organised crowd violence and of being physically and legally abused in a public setting. It’s not just one of the better Australian hardcore records to be released in recent memory; it’s a perfect encompassing of the joy of physical release.
####?Innersense? is out now on [Cool Death](http://cooldeathrecords.bigcartel.com/product/gutter-gods-innersense-lp).