I’ve been reviewing some long-ass albums lately. In the worship of Swallow the Sun‘s Songs from the North I, II, & III, Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper, or even Nightwish‘s Endless Forms Most Beautiful, patient and epic songwriting takes precedence and the portrayal of endless and daunting landscapes in audio form rear their heads. It gets tiring. So I was like, “what the hell?” and went for grind. Shock Narcotic is a grind supergroup from Detroit, their debut album I Have Seen the Future And It Doesn’t Work released through Housecore Records. The group features plenty of impressive characters, including Jeff Tuttle of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Shawn Knight of Child Bite, Zach Gibson formerly of The Black Dahlia Murder, and Don Slater of Battlecross. Will I Have Seen… stand apart from a scene packed to the brim? Will it stand apart from its members’ own accomplishments?
Grind supergroups like the recent Serpent Gnosis or Head Wound City feature fusions of death metal and thrash respectively, but Shock Narcotic resides in the camp of Entombed groove/death ‘n roll worshipers like Black Breath or Mammoth Grinder. Each of its two-and-a-half minute or less tracks dish out kickass riffs, frantic drumming, and manic hardcore vocals in tasteful measure, throwing in some vocal variety, sludge homage, and dense production to get their point across. Ultimately, while Shock Narcotic succeeds in creating a crazy solid batch of grindy groovy tunes, its debut’s lack of identity and brevity keep it from besting its members’ catalog.
After a brief intro track, which features ominous pounding percussion and riffs alongside overlapping spoken word samples, tracks like “Erratic Smearing Vitals,” “Seed Shooters,” and “Offspring Hobbled,” kick open the gates with groovy and punishing riffs, reveling in insanity and chaos, blistering listeners with a multilayered vocal attack and nearly mathy guitar licks. Tracks like “Aimless Slogging” and “Smegma in the Shape of Man” are exercises in omen and dynamics, featuring open riffs alongside plodding percussion, while vocals take on a nearly sludge rawness, channeling Rwake or Eyehategod in their distortion. The centerpieces, three consecutive two-minute-plus tracks, slow things down in terms of album pace, relying on each unique sonic palette to show all of Shock Narcotic‘s layers.1 “Pray for Paralysis” channels death ‘n roll to an elite degree, “Sliced Self/Multiple Lives” revels in a nearly southern atmosphere in its Pantera-esque groove, while “An Obsession Supreme” focuses on ominous (nearly chanting) bass clean vocals a la Cult Leader while noise and feedback pile atop the grinding riffs.
Questionable elements reside not so much in the album’s songwriting but in its execution of individual pieces. The vocals, for instance, feel sloppy and too loud in tracks like “Aimless Slogging” or “As Good as Gone,” while as a whole, the drums feel simply too low in the mix, lacking a much-needed punch. Also, while I know this is grind, the album could stand to be longer to effectively solidify those highlighted and solid riffs into something legendary. In terms of the grind genre, it does little to challenge tropes long established by Nasum, Napalm Death, or Misery Index, even if it does respectfully pay tribute. Perhaps most glaring, I Have Seen The Future And It Doesn’t Work feels like a solid project without its lineup, but in light of its members’ challenging contributions to other bands, I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed in its safeness. While The Black Dahlia Murder‘s Miasma, The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s Calculating Infinity, and even Battlecross‘ Pursuit of Honor offered unique and challenging contributions to their respective scenes, why do its members settle for a decidedly unchallenging grind album?
All this aside, Shock Narcotic is hella fun and hella talented. Their debut’s pacing is its finest selling point, while its uses of spoken word or clean vocals and death ‘n roll fusion are just experimental enough without being jarring. While, frankly, it could be longer to flesh out the memorable riffs, I Have Seen the Future And It Doesn’t Work is a nice appetizer to prepare for even more awesome things, even if this is not necessarily it. It’s probable that these Motor City residents will not outdo the grind greats or its long back-catalog, but for now, just bang your fucking head. I Have Seen the Future… and it’s pretty good.