Nottingham duo, Rogue Limb, formed in 2021 with a desire to create a conduit for their frustrations. Broken relationships, mental health regressions, the new political cynicism of our social media age – all these things needed an outlet. And what could be more effective than a synergy of metal and hardcore to channel this violent energy into something cathartic when it feels like the world around you is heading towards self-destruction? Actus Reus is an album for the misfits and the misanthropes, and it takes great pride in its despondency and depravity.
Their lyrics might eschew the self-reliance and fortitude of hardcore, but Rogue Limb’s music looks to the heyday of the 1990s when Earth Crisis could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the meanest metal bands. Opener, ‘Hoarder’, thrives on a dramatic intro of violent guitar rhythms and lethal drum fills and retains a sense of murderous delight throughout its three minutes and eighteen seconds of degeneracy. “Wasted, the shape we’re in / The lives we hide from eyes of friends / Hatred of sobering / Behind the eyes, we’re suffering,” scream Greg Blakeley and Thew Adams. Their protagonists are the anti-heroes we do not see in our everyday lives. But it’s difficult to empathise with somebody who says, “I’ll face this on my own / My failure’s all you’ve known,” in a spirit of contentment.
On a musical level, there’s much to appreciate here. ‘Shatter Them’ lays on the riffs with the same efficacy as Nails and digs in for a slow grind of doom posturing when your skull feels ready to crack. ‘Sirenhead’ rips through the dissonant Deadguy shapes in memory of the days when hardcore was still an unknown quantity to your average metalhead in the mid-90s. The subtle complexities of ‘The Wound’ are easy to overlook in the line of fire, yet d-beats and shredding scale movements smoke through the speakers like an overheated hairdryer.
Rogue Limb like it rough. They’re not afraid to broadcast this, either. Their agonising throat screams throb like a bullet to the shoulder artery. Who’s singing? It’s not clear, but they will be heard. They must be heard. Sometimes, you wish your ears would not detect the words. ‘Fuckboy’ is a vile way to rationalise the comfort of low self-esteem. If you don’t care about yourself, and you know it, then, what does it matter how others perceive you? Even so, finding a warped sense of strength in being abused demands an advanced level of self-disgust: “Come get this love / Serving it up / Busting that fucking fabulous nut / Dick game on lock / Dad bod so hot / Thirsty as fuck / Living like a fuckboy.” (Advice for the reader after listening to this song: Wash. Reach for the soap. Don’t drop it in the shower.)
How the duo insert pentatonic stoner rock shapes among this aggression is a question that remains elusive at the end of the album. There’s no doubt they can annihilate the listener at any moment of their choosing. ‘Doomscroller’ is what SiKth would produce if you asked them to put their spin on hardcore. The crass sense of humour leaves you unsure whether to laugh or wretch. A nod to Napalm Death on ‘Light Pillar’ is the right way to retain your attention. This one executes a wonderful transition from superhuman speed to a chunky riff passage and gives you an indication how the duo might translate their energy into a live setting.
Yet it’s not just about the noise with Rogue Limb. Yes, they enjoy the benefits of writing an unrestrained and liberating audio racket as a substitute for therapy, but they can also play. The rhythmic prowess is a standout feature of this music. Greg Blakeley’s guitar riffs are catchy enough to stick in your head and ugly enough to stay in your throat. Closing track, ‘An Echo’, has the courage to extend beyond eight minutes as it scorches your ears with a vitriolic snarl. The variation of dynamics here justifies its extended length. You’ll appreciate how they let it bubble at a mid-tempo pace under the weight of hatred.
“After too much time / I’m no longer hoping to die / What doesn’t kill us only makes us ponder,” roars Blakeley. This record will give you plenty to think about. It might even raise a laugh in its darkest moments.
Release Date: 12/10/2023
Record Label: Rogue Limb Records
Standout tracks: Shatter Them, The Wound, An Echo
Suggested Further Listening: Capra – Errors (2023), Coffin Apartment – Full Torso Apparition (2020), Better Lovers – God Made Me an Animal EP (2023)