For many (including yours truly), Eye Flys’ fine 2019 debut EP Context completely flew under the radar. But with a lineup including Full of Hell’s Spencer Hazard (guitar), Backslider’s Jake Smith (guitar/vocals) and (former Backslider drummer) Patrick Forrest, and Triac’s Keven Bernsten (bass), it didn’t go without notice to those in the know. My first brush with the group was last fall as support for Torche, at which point I knew I needed to rectify my buffoonery because these dudes fucking brought it. Sweaty, hardcore energy. Raucous, neck-snapping riffs. Fast forward a few weeks and – presto! – a new album is on the way. Do we deserve instant gratification like this? No, but it’s exactly how these things should work out.
Tub of Lard is, in many ways, an ideal full-length debut. It makes the EP feel like a blueprint as everything here sounds more fully developed, varied, and just… elevated. Opener “Tubba Lard” immediately cracks open the whoopass with beefy, lopsided riffing and gut-check rests that can make you lose your lunch. With accentuating leads nicely frosting this dirt cake of a song, it becomes readily apparent that chewing Tub of Lard’s metaphorical gravel will become a pleasure. Similarly, the warping guitars of followup “Guillotine” lend contrast to their sharp, hefty riffing and blunt, ear-turning rhythmic phrasing. While there’s a nice thematic complement between the music and lyrics, the balance found between the ass-kicking, direction switching, confrontational rage, and ear-fucking noise can’t be understated. A lot of artists can get this measure right, but few get it this tight, this lean, and this potent while cramming these into such well-crafted morsels.
Smith’s lyrics and vocals further amp things up. Like the best in the game, he conveys tangible and real aggression, pain, sarcasm, and humor to be found across the too-fast 26 minutes. He’s not the rangiest dude ever, but his gruff delivery is perfectly suitable in most situations. More importantly, he also finds success taking chances with some strained yowls that add an unexpected level of emotion to the album, underscoring its overall intensity. Like any noise rock record worth its salt, it’s anchored by a rhythm section that masterfully tosses in the wrinkles and relishes pounding out rollicking mid-tempo grinders as much as they do putting the pedal through the floorboards. It lays a versatile foundation for the guitars to pick their points, dig in, and twist the knife wherever appropriate or lend a curious lick or texture here and there. (Personally, I love how the guitars underscore the chorus of “Nice Guy” – you can really feel the burn and embarrassment reinforced in those needling leads.) Still, they make room for some out-of-character experimentation, too. Instrumental closer “Perception is Gamble” hints at bigger and headier soundscapes, and feels a little out of place with its wanderlusting 3:30 of spacious noise/sludge. Yet, it still manages to carry a sense of urgency and unease about it. It’s weird, but it’s an interesting way to punctuate the album and maybe leave the door open to some new textures in the future.
Eye Flys’ grind/powerviolence/hardcore background lends to a no fluff, no drags, no nonsense approach that makes each track hit with crushing efficiency and teeth-gnashing attitude. Plus, they’re smart about pulling inspiration from masters like Hamilton and Stanier, as tracks like “Reality Tunnel” and “Guillotine“ find Helmet’s proto-math stomp and deceiving hooks as easily as they purvey a sludgified version of dirty post-hardcore (dig “Extraterrestrial Memorandum” or “Chapel Perilous”) or even Converge’s forays into noise rock (“Not Ready for Tomorrow”). The modestly paced noise rock lumber of tracks like “Nice Guy” and “Predator and Prey” find a classic groove without sacrificing their innovative and attentive approach. Every feedback squeal, every rest, and every lead is carefully placed and tonally refreshing. This is especially important as the album unfolds and the rage genuinely never lets up. Where many aggressive albums become flat-out exhausting or see diminishing returns on such intensity, the overall production and presentation, killer mix, and sequencing of Tub of Lard keeps things ever lean and mean.
Everything Eye Flys presents here is so raw and abrasive, yet each of these songs have juuuuust enough of a hook that you’ll regularly find yourself slapping your own hand off the repeat button. It’s certainly catchy, but they’re wise not to get cute with it. It’s right in the midst of this conflict that they find greatness. There is great diversity within and between each song, where their emphasis on variety and detail can’t go unnoticed. Better yet? This isn’t throwback or homage, it’s not derivative, and it’s not putting on airs about being what it wants to be. It sounds like noise rock by way of some technically proficient dudes from the world of speedy hardcore because… it is. More than that, it’s an honest-to-goodness noise rock knuckle sandwich, and it’s probably in your best interest to say “thank you” before you get another. Turn this on and up.
Tub of Lard is available on Planet Earth via Thrill Jockey beginning March 20, 2020.