With the plague of metalcore and everything the term encompasses running rampant in Australia these days, a great punk record is both hard to come by and extremely welcome. 2010 was the year of bands like Amity Affliction and Parkway Drive down under, but it is Melbourne's Anchors who deserve recognition for their debut full-length, Bad Juju.
Being isolated in a PUNK-FREE ZONE in the southwestern corner of the country, I hadn't caught wind of Anchors before Bad Juju. Thank god for the internet.
Anchors are a fast and furious five-piece punk act, but they bring an interesting assortment of influences and backgrounds to the table–they are fronted by an ex-thrash metal singer, for one. However, it's clear from the first gravelly notes in opener "Stay Frosty" that punk is where his tuneful, flat-out screams belong, occasionally augmented throughout the album with melodic gang vocals.
The guitars bubble under the vocals ready to explode on "The Feelgood Hit of the Summer", but truly announce themselves with their infectious blend of pace and melody on "We Are Oscar Mike". The band cites and shows A Wilhelm Scream and Strung Out to be among their influences, but it is their use of more technical, breakneck riffs, which betray their metal backgrounds. The guitars are rarely repetitive and are interesting and catchy in measure, leaving you looking forward, yet not quite sure where they will race to next. Solos are used with tasteful restraint and absolutely shred when they do rear their head, such as on "One Man Wolf Pack".
The same track features the best bass moment of the album, though sadly the spotlight on guitars means bass is turned down and left to assist the drums rather than be a standout itself.
The drums are energetic and well-executed throughout without being outstandingly creative, though "Wolf Pack" and "Ill Glory" feature some memorable moments when the relentless guitars briefly lull to catch their breath.
Personally, lyrics play a significant part in my enjoyment of a band, and Anchors deliver in this department. As a rule they are pissed off and cynical, but still accessible, with no airy metaphors–it's honest, personal and to-the-point, and sung with necessary conviction:
"All the things that we have done / they don't mean shit if you don't die young / Ten years later what the fuck has changed?/ Got a little less heart and a little more brain / got a little less spirit and a little less faith / got a little less pride and a lot more hate."
The epic buildup and chant in "Ill Glory" also springs to mind when mentioning lyrics:
"Tried to be everything to everybody / now you're nothing at all!"
While I cannot sing the praises and harp on about the positives of Bad Juju enough, the second half of silence and clowning in the eight-minute "Crush Syndrome" frustrates me–it interrupts the flow of the album and detracts from the final track. However, we can allow these guys the indulgence, as everything else here is spot on. "Oscar Mike" is probably the weakest track on the record but it's still a cracker, and the production (apart from the quiet bass) is perfect for the band–rough around the edges but relatively crisp and clear.
I can't finish without mentioning "Buscemi"–this track is my pick of the bunch and features probably the best guitar moment I've heard in recent times in its outro.
I've yet to see this band live but I hope they can back up this record with a good show, and hopefully the majority of Punknews members in the U.S. and Canada will get to check them out in the future–in the meantime, find this album.