Of Concrete Gods – HurtPeopleHurtPeople


Grunge. It gave a kick up the backside to the heavy metal bands in the mainstream; eliminated cock rock; brought punk back into the public consciousness; redefined the rock star as a belligerent nemesis to the corporate world; and paved the way for alternative artists to dominate the 1990s. It also produced an abundance of bands after the death of Kurt Cobain that sold million of records using a formula that still works to this day. Yet post-grunge is one of the most uninspired and predictable “dad rock” genres on the planet. Modern groups that identify with it, do so at their peril. Those that take inspiration from it and combine it with thick metallic riffing and heavy posturing have no such problem. Luton quintet, Of Concrete Gods, are one of these bands.

HurtPeopleHurtPeople qualifies as an album at thirty-six minutes in length, but the group consider it an EP. It’s not a product adjusted for mainstream consumption, although the songwriting tricks that work for the classic artists are also present here. Opener, ‘Her Embrace’, builds from a tasty Trouble riff and thudding bassline in the intro before the obstinate crunch of the guitars provide the perfect platform for Nik Scott to meditate over them in a baritone rock voice. The chorus will remind you of ‘Check My Mind’ by Alice in Chains. Your mind will conjure images of a nocturnal setting for a late-night MTV treat. Listen to the pathos in the husky vocals and the way they transition into a higher octave for the chorus – this is the sound of a modern-day Jude the Obscure wrestling with the problem of his innocuous existence. The head-spinning doom riffs in the middle-eight will test your air guitar skills. Nothing is predictable here. Observe how a mid-range melody of soulful voice patterns and backing harmonies clear the way for an outro like Soundgarden in the Superunknown era.

Released in October 2023, this record contains some of the oldest material in the band’s catalogue. ‘Good Samaritan’ first appeared as a single on Bandcamp in January 2021. Think of this as the aggressive hard rock stampede for a metal audience. An inventive use of menacing growls and powerful rock projections gives it an Entombed feel circa Wolverine Blues. The half-timing chorus is the definition of groove metal as imagined by Pantera. By contrast, ‘Chasing Clichés’ is bass-heavy groove rock with the panache of Corrosion of Conformity and the confidence of a Stone Temple Pilots chorus. Here, drummer, Paul Bearman, plays the main beat like a slow-moving train as bassist, Richard Davies, makes his instrument grunt like a stubborn machine that can continue manufacturing goods for another ten years. “When tomorrow comes, I’ll make the same mistakes,” laments Nik Scott in a moment of self-chastisement.

Clearly, Of Concrete Gods inhabit a dark world that’s too demoralising to leave them in despair. They accept the world for what it is – not how it should be in an ideal reality. ‘Death of the Fool’ is the most solemn song on the record with a catchy phrasing of clean guitar, voice, and marching drums in the intro. The dual vocals give it a lingering mood of regret, yet the syncopated guitars invite you to drop your shoulders and bounce on your heels. There’s nothing tiresome about this composition despite its steady tempo – listen to the switch to dancing tom drums and spoken-word ruminations after the second chorus. This song’s greatest strengths are its gradual build up to metallic chugging and its accelerating aggression. Nik Scott’s switch to a masculine death metal growl at 05:50 takes us far beyond grunge territory. You can see why they play this as the penultimate song in their live set – the Mastodon riffs are monstrous, just like the distortion in the bass amp.

“I fuck up every time / I smell of suicide,” roars Nik Scott in closing track, ‘Obsidian’. It’s a risky decision to end with a twelve-minute affair built around melancholy acoustic guitars and damaged-heart vocal melodies. You can feel the tension building and the guitars embracing heavier techniques with each passing verse. The six-stringers get their wish to break out into crispy palm-muted rhythms in the climax. Do we need three minutes of the resurrected intro, at the end, to take us into the night? The band do. Their experience is a euphoric one of shared emotional catharsis – like triumphant athletes, they need a warm down. You can benefit from one as well.

HurtPeopleHurtPeople is a hard-rocking slab of testosterone vulnerability that many can relate to, yet it’s also entertaining and energising. If you want unhinged human anguish, listen to a post-metal album. If you want a calmer reflection on life’s overbearing challenges, then, this is the one for you.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 17/10/2023

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: Her Embrace, Death of the Fool

Suggested Further Listening: Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue (2009), Supershine – Supershine (2000), Averysadstory – Old Dark Memories (2023)