Throw a quick glance over Holy Roar’s active roster right now and you’ll find some truly heavy shit in there, scrapping with jagged nails and even sharper distortion. Riffs, spills, beatdowns, and blackened blasting – if it’s dark and packed full of angry decibels, they’ve got it. It’s not all blunt-force terror though, just recently the label has put out some dark Americana (A.A Williams) and some boisterous yet beautiful noisy rock (Modern Rituals). Don’t confuse this label for a one-trick pony. You’d be doing them, and yourself, a massive disservice. Saying that, In The Hands Of An Angry God – Idaho’s Throes Holy Roar debut – is 100% one of the noisy ones. Diabolical, misanthropic, and caked in an impossibly dense carpet of sludge and filth, this record is angry. Really, really fucking angry.
With a title seemingly drawn from an 18th-century fire-and-brimstone sermon (Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God if you’re interested), Throes’ newest forty-minute barnstormer plays like one of the most pissed-off live sets you’ll ever hear. “Bad Meat” blasts a hole through the crowd’s reality and after that tracks bleed in and out with feedback and resonating chords, dipping through the kind of lurching, staggering 5/4 riffs and slide-heavy grooves that draw the obvious comparisons to Gaza and Cult Leader. The comparisons are justified, but not concrete. Active, driving drums dance through d-beats, blasts, and simple goliath stomps, bringing to mind some of sludges most lethal acts instead of the most chaotic. “They Never Spoke” earns it’s fake-out ending, bringing back an absolutely huge riff that could suck the air out venues of any size. The band does not want you catching your breath until they are willing to let you.
Throes thrive in the slowest moments of this record, channeling kaiju energy fit to level entire continents, not just cities. The earth-rattling bass and thunderous drum fills have that live feel to them, shaking your fillings and rattling screws loose from the light fixtures above the stage. “Disillusion” comes in nearer the end of the performance, in that perfect moment of a set where the trembling knees and ringing ears of the crowd need just a little bit of respite. Vocals shift from the gnarled rasp and hardcore bark to a morose, haunting croon, painting a sombre picture over a decidedly post-metal tune; the band finally letting their audience catch a breath before they smash their chest cavity to bits with another huge finale of booming bass. Naysayers will call it predictable. I call it precision riff engineering.
Considering how much of the forty-minute run time is complete aural obliteration, every fill and flourish from the percussion is dynamite. Little triplets from the kicks and ride-bell hammerings are so punchy that tracks like “Derelict” could appear twice in the live set and no one would care. Not every band can play so many low’n’slow riffs in a row without tiring out a crowd, but Throes make it sound so damn easy. Even if it’s an extra guitar track playing a ringing drone note somewhere in the distance of a huge riff in “Carrion”, you know it’s been carefully placed there. With tweezers and one of those mad monocles a telescope on the end. Just like everything else on In The Hands Of An Angry God, each cymbal choke and pause in between sliding, snarling riffs is precise. Every layered vocal bleeds over the track, never crashing the party of the mix. Every one of the devastating barked words is given room to seep and creep into the audience’s brain.
Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God was pretty much a scaremongering project from its author. It can be summarised as such: “God thinks you’re all evil cunts. He’s always watching. It’s up to him when you fall, and if you’re not careful then you’re going to burn for all eternity. It’s very unlikely you’ll make it to Heaven.” Now, Throes aren’t preaching on this record, but there’s still a lot of hate on this mighty tome (and what is preaching, if not directing hate towards anyone not of that particular ilk). I did a little bit of research on Edwards’ sermon, so I might be drawing comparisons where there aren’t any, but that’s okay. It’s a subjective experience, like any performance. When lyrics like “When they came to collect you they dragged the dirt to cover your body” are repeated over and over atop a cacophony of strings and skins, it’s hilarious to imagine the kind of sermon that Throes would give to a 1741 congregation in one of the thirteen colonies. The scared 18th century Christians would shit their gingham undergarments and fucking bolt. Maybe that’s what happened to Roanoke?
I’ll leave you with my favourite line from the record, which also happens to be the closing line of Throes’ vitriol-fuelled statement to the world. Buy this record. God says so. Or else.
“I believe in a pig faced god”
In the Hands of An Angry God is available now via Holy Roar Records.