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Album Review: Retox - Ugly Animals

Since the birth of Three One G, Justin Pearson is or has been actively involved in a large number of its groups as well as founding the label. Even at 35, he is somewhat the Godfather of this particular brand of hardcore, having began what is now one large, incestuous family of musicians, all dabbling in one another’s projects and creating beautifully ugly children, deformed in all the right ways.

Retox is Justin Pearson (The Locust, Head Wound City, Some Girls et al), Gabe Serbian (The Locust, Holy Molar, Cattle Decapitation), Michael Crain (Festival of a Dead Deer), and Thor Dickey. They have described themselves as a “response to stagnant and boring cultures, as well as the countercultures that have slipped into a sea of pointlessness”, and true enough, there are a great many words to describe Retox and neither ‘stagnant’ nor ‘boring’ are among them.

It is a rare occurrence when the blistering aggression, energy, and aesthetic of a band’s live performance translates to record, but ‘Ugly Animals’ has that kind of raw, intrusive presence that not only commands your attention, but holds it. Stylistically, Retox have taken a step back from the theatricalities of The Locust, leaning instead towards the deeper, darker, and thicker tones of Dead Kennedys or The Blood Brothers. To that end, Justin’s vocals have taken on a coarser texture, dragging his characteristic feral yelps and cartoon shrieks into harsher territory.

The elements that make up ‘Ugly Animals’ are at once impulsive and detailed, primitive and complicated, untamed and tangible. Fast, penetrating drum lines, toothed riffs, and hooks (they are definitely in there somewhere...) are hard to pin down at first, initially coming at you as one incomprehensible wall of sound, but each time the wall hits you it breaks apart and you can start to identify how it all came together in the first place.

Racking up eleven tracks in under thirteen minutes is not a particularly unique achievement for a band whose previous projects have been typified by songs that end before you finish reading their title, but ‘Ugly Animals’ hurtles by in a blaze of frustration, determination, and glass-shattering force that leaves you feeling almost abused (physically, emotionally, decide). They are irritated by the past, given up on the future, and reflecting the present in the aspects of their music – “primitive”, and “crude”. From the order of monotony and the repetition of social injustice, Retox create chaos. And why not? After all, ‘Boredom is Counter revolutionary’.


'Ugly Animals' is out August 23rd through Three One G Records.

Emma Garland

Alter The Press!