Copenhagen’s hardcore and metal scenes are one of the hottest around Europe right now – maybe even the world’s. Leaving Mercyful Fate, Volbeat, and Aqua to the normies, the city is home to a slew of acts from the worlds of avant-grind to hairy-chested progressive power metal. It’s also the home to one group of pissed-up punks going by the name Halshug. Following their 2016 release Sort Sind, Southern Lord are again hosting and promoting the band’s hardcore-adjacent, crusted punk release Drøm. Three releases deep, the Danish mob turn up the volume but lose some of the dynamic charges that gave their brand of d-beat an edge.
It’s maybe unfair to say that Halshug have lost some of the impetus that made Sort Sind an engaging, fist-pumping trip. There’s still plenty of piss and spit behind the vocals and four-chord riffs that ring out over the course of Drøm, matched in tone by the gristly, overdriven bass (an absolute must-have for any band operating in this set of genres) and backed by stripped-down percussion. Opener “Kæmper Imod” kicks in out of nowhere like a brutal hangover, after a brief introduction of steel percussion – setting the scene for the filthy toilet, sticky floor pub gig that this record deserves to be played in. The deranged outro of “Giv Alting Op” is reminiscent of Yakuza, with a deescalating, filtered sax solo ripping behind another of the band’s curiously carnal yet simplistic chord patterns. It’s one of the most interesting parts of the record. Its one of a few very interesting parts of the record, to be more honest than hyperbolic.
An industrial-edged filler track and the gloomy, atmospheric instrumental outro aside, Drøm really loses steam after a point. The patterns and beats get all too familiar going into the middle third of the record, and the half-hour runtime becomes a bit of a slog. There doesn’t seem to be much immediacy coming from the Halshug camp, especially when looking at their first two crusty offerings. Promotional materials hint at the band embracing a more care-free attitude to their songwriting, implementing dark-wave and industrial influences but outside of the obvious filler and outro, these aren’t very present. Or there at all, really. It’s disappointing because even one or two tracks that burst forward with more hostility would smash the monotony of medium-tempo punk that gets tired very fast. It really is a shame as album closer “Illusion” really latches onto a sound that’s far more interesting than the fairly turgid and, honestly, skippable tracks on this record.
Drøm runs through an amicable batch of songs for punks and hardcore kids to converse over, never quite hitting levels required to get the barflies away from their glasses and onto the dancefloor. The hints of experimentation and mould-breaking are too few and far between, highlighting the middling pace of the rest of the album. There’s not enough urgency in Halshug’s hardcore this time around, which sucks, as the last record was really crusty, really dark, and really moreish. It’s maybe unfair again to call this record forgettable, but 2019 has an army of releases that will be fighting tooth and nail to stand notorious over this one.
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Drøm drops July 19th via Southern Lord, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.