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Meat Wave - Malign Hex (Album Review)

Monday, 24 October 2022 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Patrick Houdek

It’s been a decade since Meat Wave’s Chris Sutter roared ‘How much is too much?’ on the Chicago trio’s self-titled debut. It was a clarion call of sorts for a disillusioned generation, for whom the odds are rarely in their favour. How much can be taken away before nothing of value remains?

Fast-forward 10 years, and two subsequent albums, and we arrive at the band’s fourth outing ‘Malign Hex’. Although Sutter’s gaze may have folded inwards to wrestle personal demons, the crushing capitalist structures that have served as a backdrop before are as overbearing as ever.

The faux contentment found in the opening bars of Honest Living soon disintegrates into a scathing swipe at the brutality of what it takes to make ends meet, as Sutter’s voice pours scorn from the same cup as a young Zach De La Rocha over a buzzsaw squal of guitar.

Meat Wave have always been a punk band in a hurry, delivering a frenetic intravenous hit. That same blood still courses through the relentless onslaught of Complaint as Ryan Wizniak on drums and Joe Gac on bass sound like they are trying to outpace a lit fuse. But there is something more adventurous at play here.

For this album Sutter is attempting to work through his own personal baggage, or hexes, that he has had thrust upon him, and that task has required a new musical well to pull from. As a result, on ‘Malign Hex’, gloaming post-punk, slouchy goth-rock and rhythmic acrobatics reminiscent of At The Drive-In all combine to tell Sutter’s stories in a manner that is as fully realised as possible. 

What Would You Like Me To Do and Waveless also find the frontman carving out his most direct and melodious choruses to date. Emerging from the caustic dissonance on the record, they are clear-eyed moments that hit all the harder as a result of his overriding sense of restraint. 

As cracks in our socio-political landscape continue to appear and swell, it can be a painful task to simultaneously face our own personal shortcomings. Meat Wave have built a space to house their frustration and confusion so that it can be examined for answers. As a result, ‘Malign Hex’ is a record of resilience in a world that serves up attack after attack.

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