By Luigi Sibona
Here’s a pleasant late-year surprise… a striped-back hardcore record hailing from Norwegian punkers, Exploding Head Syndrome. Weighing in at a lean 32 minutes EHS’s second full length is a hook-lead infusion of hardcore wailing, groove-tinged rock & roll with a splash of Nordic-metal riffage. Sign us the hell up.
The half-hour-of-power approach serves EHS well, make no mistake ‘World Crashes Down’ is a lean, mean little LP. The ten tracks open with heavy hitter, ‘Wasting Away’, setting out the stall early on. Framed around a belting central hook, lead vocalist, Eirik’s aural onslaught instantly demands your attention. His frantic delivery brings to mind the elemental howl of Converge’s Jacob Bannon, albeit more comprehensible and thus more accessible. The Converge comparisons don’t stop there with ‘Wasting Away’ sharing a cannily similar chord progression to Converge’s incredible ‘Homewrecker’ from their 2001 masterwork Jane Doe (check it out if you want your face blown out the back of your head). It’s such a surprise then that a band in its relative infancy, don’t suffer by comparison.
EHS wear their influences on their sleeve; combining diverse touchstones from across the punk/hardcore spectrum these guys concoct a potent witch’s brew of catchy aggression. One of the highlights of the tracklist, ‘Of Sanity and Dignity’ opens with a paced barrage of drums and a mean, throbbing bass line. Queue Eirik’s venomously spat lyrics, which recall the impatience of vintage Ian MacKaye circa Teen Idles and Minor Threat. Followed by a chanting, punchy chorus that hits you with a blend of rage and savvy melody seen in the best of the 90s punk revival – Bad Religion, NOFX, Pennywise and so on. There’s actually more than a dash of Pennywise’s brand of catchy skate punk in the verse/chanted chorus/verse song structure but EHS are smart enough not to get too comfortable in that framework.
From all this it would be easy to discard EHS as derivative of the genre but they are doing far more with it than just that. These guys are visibly super musically literate and know their genre well enough to bend and subvert it. Mixing groove-lead rock & roll elements with more than a lick of that lovely Nordic metal in the memorable riffs, they bear a resemblance to fellow Norwegians, Kveletak.
What it all comes down to is the songwriting and, to be blunt, it’s fucking rock solid. Ending well with the aptly titled ‘End Game’, EHS flirt with post-hardcore and emo (eww), with guest vocals from Dorthea Horpestad (Blomst) that sound notably Hayley Williams-esque, but the fist-pumping, harmonized high of the chorus ensures you leave with a powerful pump and the urge to play it from the top.
It’s not the genre-hopping landmark of Scandinavian Punk Rock that Refused’s ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’ was (what is?), but this is a smart, confident and, most importantly, hardcore LP from a band that have a lot more to come. Colour us jacked for whatever Exploding Head Syndrome have on the horizon.