Leechfeast - Neon Crosses (CASS)
It’s not that I would nail myself to the masochist mast, but I have to admit there is something ritualistically cleansing about laying down in a dark room, depriving all senses except hearing, and shattering that peaceful seclusion with a high volume deluge of grisly, bone-biting aural violence. Despite the horrific grime one is subjected to, the effect is one of paradoxical cleanliness and peace. But for the ritual to work it must be pure; nothing watered down into a thin, homeopathic tincture; it must be something viscous and foul-tasting that lets you know that you’ve been medicined, a spiking that lets you know you’ve been spoken to. If you need this treatment as much as I do, then “Neon Crosses” is your draught.
This is Leechfeast’s first full-length for five years (their second overall), and their first release since the split with New Zealand's now defunct grime lords Meth Drinker back in 2015. Perhaps significantly, this is the first recording since Hans Wubs took over the sticks from Marko Šajn in an otherwise remarkably consistent line-up since their nascence in 2010.
As the title suggests, it cuts an urban path. For Slovenia’s Leechfeast, the children of the night are not wolves, but other predators skulking between the streetlights. They represent the mould growing in the gutters, the weeds pushing through the concrete, blackened foil in the alleys and the screams of victims slapping back off wet brick, steel and glass.
At first harken, I quickly understand why comparisons have been drawn between “Neon Crosses” and the excoriating sounds of Cough and Moss, but it is no carbon copy. Instead, the band manage to steer their sound safely across the ever busier shipping lanes of modern doom, deftly avoiding collision with the other lumbering tankers which seem to be riding in each other’s wakes.
An example of this subtle divergence comes on the second track, ‘Halogen’. Its linchpin riff is like someone heartlessly slinging on a string of Reggie Dixon numbers when you're too goofed to intervene, leaving you to be waltzed through to some dreadful other dimension.
Highlight song, ‘Razor Nest,’ well positioned at the end of the record, opens with gloomily melodic, reverb-washed singing, drawing parallels with 40 Watt Sun, except with all the hope for tomorrow extinguished. Then despair gives way to anger once more and the vocals lash out again, the guitars moving from minors to chromatics, the whole peppered with samples from what sounds to be space age American public information films. The effect is that of a broken emergency broadcast system piping messages exhorting calm which echo through the empty streets of a post-neutron bombed world.
At no point does “Neon Crosses” feel protracted, each of the eight to ten minute tracks is extremely well judged; the bars allotted to the changing riffs and motifs is perfect and the sound achieved in the studio and in post-production is crisp, capturing some of that high-end fizz that gives character to otherwise bass rich guitar tone and slow skin pummeling.
The record invokes that horrid yet splendid feeling of your flesh being torn from you in long, misshapen strips, and then dresses the wounds in melancholic, chant-like singing and single picked guitar lines more apt to surrendering to the darkness than exalting it. Taken altogether, the vacillation between violence and misery is compelling. Would definitely recommend for your next isolation tank session. - The Sludgelord