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No Vikings in sight - 66%

robotiq, April 29th, 2021

Don’t be fooled by the long-ship on the front cover, nor the references to Valhalla. Enewetak had nothing to do with Amon Amarth or Viking metal. These guys played violent, sludgy, lo-fi hardcore with lots of blasting and screaming. The band hailed from California. I tend to associate them with other 'hot weather' hardcore bands from California and neighbouring states, bands like Unruh, Suicide Nation and Fall Silent. This is a particular hardcore sound that fits the location and the era. I remember visiting California many years ago and thinking how ideal it seemed as a backdrop for thrashy hardcore. That part of the world is blighted by consumerism, and yet characterised by freedom, isolation and possibilities. I figured that there must have been something darker lurking beneath the facade.

I like this kind of gritty hardcore but I’m not a massive fan of this Enewetak record. I cannot doubt the band’s anger, passion and energy. That stuff is assured with these types of bands. For me, this record lacks something in the songwriting. The band switches between a number of different styles without mastering any of them. The result is an unfocused rage. There is plenty of fast-paced blasting stuff ("Tragedy"). There are slower, lurching, death metal moments that sound a bit like Human Remains ("Greyskull"). There are Sabbath-influenced parts that remind me of Eyehategod ("Stepped On"). The dominant influence everywhere else is Rorschach. The harsh barking vocals sound identical to Charles Maggio’s on “Protestant”. Songs like "Singularity" and "Valhalla" hit the Rorschach vibe best. The latter is the best song on the album and brings some Slint-ish vibes into the equation.

This record is OK. I just don’t think Enewetak had the same song-writing ability or musical depth as the bands that preceded them. They couldn’t match what Rorschach had done four years earlier. They didn’t have a drummer to compete with Andrew Gormley (few did), and their riffs were not as angular or as interesting as the ones Keith Huckins wrote (both on "Protestant" and "Fixation on a Co-worker"). Better hardcore existed before this record, so I tend to think of Enewetak as an also-ran when it comes to brutal nineties hardcore. Those who love this style of music will want to take a look. Curious onlookers and newcomers would be much better served with Rorschach, Human Remains, Deadguy, Catharsis, Suicide Nation, and the multitude of German and Canadian bands who all made brutal hardcore in the nineties.