Shatter Brain – Pitchfork Justice Review

When I saw the eye-catching cover for Shatter Brain‘s debut full-length, Pitchfork Justice, I immediately assumed they were a thrash band. I was about 1/8th right, as this Australian act mixes sludge, grind, death and punk with speed for what can only be described as an unruly and boisterous sound. Pitchfork Justice is an album that wants to be many things, sometimes all at the same time, and this leads to some interesting moments to be sure. What it doesn’t always lead to is a successful listening experience as styles careen, clash and collide and ideas get thrown at the wall to see what sticks. There are some cool moments to be had and there’s talent involved, but much like homemade moonshine, when it works it works, and when it doesn’t you go blind.

The table is set rather well initially with rowdy opener “Talk in Fear” showcasing the band’s approach in the most flattering light possible. It’s a big, ugly sound with greasy, sludgy riffs that would feel at home on a Melvins album and in fact, there are several moments that sound like the classic Melvins cut “Honey Bucket.”1 The vocals run the gamut from deathy bellows to high pitched insane screaming and everything in between, reminding me of the late, sometimes great Impetigo when they work. The pacing shifts from thrashy to chuggy and the construct manages to sound both unhinged and entertainingly madcap. It certainly has a lot of personality if nothing else. Things are more thrash-standard on “Lorem Ipsum,” which is something like Exhorder mixed with The Accused, if your mind can fathom that combo, and though the vocals are a bit too much, the song is an energetic and pulverizing little killdozer of thrash and deathgrind.

Sadly, the rest of the album wanders out of the relative safety of the insane asylum and gets stuck in the surrounding cisterns, culverts and cow paddocks. Part of the problem is that while they play grindy thrash, they don’t write short, punchy songs. The title track runs over 6 minutes, and though it’s decent in most respects with a meaty, Bolt Thrower approved mid-tempo pace that feels heavy as hell, it just feels way too long and the extremely over the top, lunatic vocals only add to the problem, blunting the enjoyment. The same issue impacts the lesser cut, “Choosing Beggars” which is a flat, pork-brained chug-fest that Machine Head could have shat out on a bad day, and the lack of quality is accentuated by its length. That said, there are decent moments, like the berserk steamrolling deaththrash of “Fencesitter” where the band just goes all out, but even this one should end about a minute earlier than it does. “Silent Scream” succeeds by being an odd outlier, surprising with clean somber vocals and an approach not far removed from Pantera‘s “Cemetery Gates” but with added meth, hobo wine and prison tats. Sadly, too much of the album feels erratic and some songs sound pasted together with duct tape, gum and high hopes.

The talent of guitar tandem Jack Hartley and Matthew Disisto is readily apparent. They craft a collection of beefy, bullying riffs that feel like you’d struggle to deadlift them, and their solo work is also quite impressive, at times even sublime. Left to their own devices the duo would likely field a decent outing, but they’re often undercut by the deranged vocals of Tom Santamaria, who sounds like he has several variants of rabies as well as a terminal infestation of Guatemalan insanity worms. His death roars, thrash barks, and hardcore shouting are effective enough but his deranged screaming is very reminiscent of Blaine Cook of The Accused and annoying as hell. Add in the fact that he leaps between vocal styles nonstop and you’re pretty much guaranteed he remains the center of attention for better or worse.

Pitchfork Justice has some glaring flaws, but you can definitely hear the band’s potential. There’s a clear level of ability here yet the band still sounds a bit amateurish at times and not all their ideas gel. With some elbow grease at the drawing board and some tighter writing they may make an impact someday, but I don’t think I’ll be spending a lot of time with their debut. It hurts my brain.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: WormHoleDeath
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: May 1st, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. And the main riff is a lot like that of Brainstorm‘s “Firesoul.”
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