The extreme music well of Norway is so much deeper than black metal and the kvlt krew that follow it so adamantly. Since this summer, Heavy Blog has covered hardcore, post-metal, and grind bands from the frozen Northern country, eschewing the typically glum and grim corpse-painted faces of lo-fi blast beating black metal in favour of regular folks in regular clothes playing not so regular music. NAG don’t belong in bullet belts and clown makeup, the trio instead more home in Canadian tuxedos covered in rips, tears, and punk band patches. New record Nagged To Death gets a little bit blackened, but is first and foremost a hardcore record with the indelible stench of crust bubbling on the surface.
Some will piss and moan that Nagged To Death isn’t really hardcore and isn’t really crust, but sits gingerly on the fence between the two. Imagine being that much of a shitebag though? “Sigh” opens proceedings with a straightforward riff with ringing out chords, backed by a d-beat punchy enough to turn an MMA fighter’s jaw into dust; throw Trap Them, Baptists, and Red Fang into the ring together and the ensuing violence would sound a lot like this.
“Dumb Little Life”, the title track, and “Sorry” all follow the same pattern, tumbling along with high tempo black’n’roll beats and simple, stabbing riffs, the simplicity of which does become fairly apparent as these tracks begin to blur into one another. There’s little wrong with them, save for their predictability. Each one has a combination of the three members (and several layers of studio magic on the vocal tracks) shouting out the name of the track. It’s caveman metal, but without the destructive, tight as a midge’s bunghole riffing.
The highlights of Nagged To Death are easily the tracks that feature the gutter punk choir, to use a term. “Black Wizards” is a pretty two-tone track until it’s final moments when the haunting choral vocals come steaming into play. Similarly, “Rainbow Children” becomes a far more interesting number when this technique is used again. “No Rest For The Blessed” is the most complete track from NAG to date – over two LPs – and stands out basically because it has a beginning, middle, and end. The picked out chords that close the track follow a track that is more devastating in the d-beating mayhem because it doesn’t just pop the whole time. There’s room for the vocals to fill the echo chamber and swell violently before crashing back into the familiar punky riffs. The record would be much more entertaining if these avenues were visited more frequently.
Bizarrely, a record so rooted in the crust sound is at it’s most pleasing when it’s furthest away from the scuzz and festering rot of the genre. Nagged To Death is full of chest-beating overdriven punk anthems with repeated, belted out lines and crowd-pleasing riffs, for sure, it’s just far more enjoyable when NAG are playing with traditional metal aspects and slowing things down. This is a record that will conflict the crusties who want everything fast all the time, just as it will prick up the ears of anyone bold enough to give this a go – especially if it’s their d-beat cherry being popped. The mould is pretty rigid on this one and the few blemishes or imperfections never really spoil the fun. It’s just eight to ten minutes too long/has eight to ten minutes of d-beats too many.