Burst—Prey on Life (Relapse)
My first couple listens to this Swedish band’s latest album left me non-committal, but Prey on Life has grown on me tremendously since then. Burst’s sound isn’t very welcoming. It’s an interesting blend of styles—art-damaged hardcore like Neurosis and their brethren Isis, mixed with some Swedish speed metal in the vein of At the Gates. The vocals rarely vary from a hardcore scream with the panic meter constantly in the red. I prefer to hear vocalists mix it up a little. I guess it’s an appropriate style to deliver lines like “rolling waves of nausea/seeping through/my mind/darkest abyss of conscience/time will swallow/all.” Not until the seventh track, “Crystal Asunder,” does that voice make way for some more melodic singing, plaintive and processed. All in all I considered it a bleak listen that didn't distinguish itself from many other hardcore bands I’ve heard. “Undoing (Prey on Life)” is an intriguing little opener, moving as it does through powerchord bombast and cacophony to a brief acoustic guitar break, more cacophony, with a percussion fusillade at the finish. But the true genius of the album emerges by the fourth track, “Rain,” where the intricacy of the song structures and the tight playing really becomes apparent. Burst doesn’t emphasize atmosphere and repetition like Neurosis and their ilk. The songs on Prey on Life are relatively short, and never stay in one place for too long. Nor does Burst revel in disorientation and randomness. The transitions between sections are so smooth that they don’t call attention to themselves, unlike the exercises in cut-and-paste that dozens of other noisecore bands consider songwriting. This is a very clever album that fully deserved its place near the top of many “best-of-2003” lists last December.