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For all its wonderful, fickle, shapeshifting ways, there are at least a handful of things you can rely on when it comes to hardcore. First among them? The near-immutability of the sub-subgenre known as D-beat. Sure, you might have the wild alpha and omega of stadium crust and noise punk, but bar the occasional rock ‘n’ roll injection or black metal dalliance, D-beat largely continues to offer the uniformity of sound, vision, and aesthetic you might expect from a style that originates not just from one band, but one drum beat.
Many acts seem to revel in the monochromatic parameters laid down by Discharge back in the early ’80s, but punk wouldn’t be punk without a handful of acts kicking against the barricades. Melbourne’s GELD have already proven themselves outliers, and with third album Currency // Castration they continue a trajectory that is both upward and nerve-janglingly inward.
Like Grave New World and the Impalers, GELD take an uncommon path: they frazzle their punk with a dense, glowering sense of the psychedelic. There’s no whiff of incense or peppermints here, though, just ugly, raw, bulge-eyed terror that puts the “punks is hippies” notion to the sword as it hews something strangely transportive with wild, nihilistic abandon. If the “Vocal Test”-esque opener suggests borderline sanity, it’s not long before things begin to corrode and decay, with sawtoothed riffs jabbing and buckling as vocalist Al Smith gnashes his way toward a choking vortex of bitter self-knowledge.
“Clock Keeps Crawling” begs you to sing along as it forces two sticky fingers down your throat, while the atavistically familiar bassline that opens “Fog Of War” yaws into nightmare-quality riffs that are both squelchy and nimble. “The Fix Is In,” meanwhile, strips down its grand, heaving riffs for parts before exploding them into a blinding cascade of coruscating sparks.
For all its ferocity and all its microdosed focus, Currency // Castration is also bizarrely ecstatic, somehow identifying common threads to link the realms of Disclose, Dephosphorus, and Liquorball as it careens toward its own personal psychic oblivion. Held up to the light and examined closely it is undeniably foul but also scab-pickingly compulsive: a writhing, DayGlo monstrosity that, even at its furthest, most gibbering reaches of perception, remains vital and disgustingly, unbelievably alive.