On their latest album, In Condemnation, hardcore band Pandemix deliver more of what they do best: catchy odes to tearing down the institutions that were never intended to serve punks like us. Opening track “No Monuments” begins with a sparse guitar riff and some ominous drums, before Shannon Thompson declares, “This city wants to swallow me whole.” As if to illustrate her point, the whole band picks up the pace, and things only get more ferocious from there.
Pandemix are a Boston-based band (minus Thompson, who lives in Pittsburgh); accordingly, many of these songs contain elements associated with the city’s storied scene, like the anthemic choruses and the raw heaviness of the instrumentation. It’s Thompson’s vocals, though, spanning deadpan spoken word, emotive shouts, angry howls, and more, that truly set the band’s sound apart: Standout track “A Pox” has her repeatedly snarling the titular phrase (a nod to Shakespeare, a rarity in punk), venting her sheer frustration with the status quo.
Across the record, Thompson rails against everything from economies of fear to the commodification of Pride parades, never once giving up the fight. On “Past Selves,” the album’s best (and, with its atypical tempo shifts, most sonically interesting) track, Thompson sings as if from the bottom of a well, “I search for light / In the darkness.” Then, the full sound of the band rushes back spectacularly, carrying on the intense melody through to “Column of Light,” the spare dirge that closes the album. “The longer I’m alive, the more I’m disgraced,” Thompson sings. With each drawn-out syllable, she makes palpable the disgust she feels for humanity’s failures. It’s a fitting end to one of the year’s most furious efforts so far.