Noisemakers Salò have crafted a truly remarkable EP considering the three members haven’t even been playing live together for a year. The five tracks (plus bonus track) included on this self titled EP contain candid hardcore punk, with sufficient freshness and dynamism to produce (some level of) a unique voice.
Presumably, Salò are named after the town Salò in Northern Italy, which was the capital of the Fascist portion of Italy (the Italian Social Republic) – either that, or the brave 70s Italian movie made about it. Anyway, that’s kind of irrelevant – this review is about the band Salò. The Glaswegian trio formed in 2010 through the demise of their previous bands: The Ocean Fracture and No Kilter. Their brief history involves commencing their live shows in June 2011 and (originally) releasing the Salò EP in December 2011 on Overlook Records.
The first thing I want to get out of the way is production talk. This EP was helmed by Ross McGowan, who has produced Dananananaykroyd (RIP), United Fruit, etc. in the past. The problem with debut hardcore punk and/or post-hardcore releases (…actually, with most types of punk, indie, etc.) is balancing the polish with the necessary rawness. Now, Salò EP has a fiercely raw overall sound – which perfectly captures all the desired aggression of the vocals and guitars. However, where McGowan has partially failed is with the consistency of the vocals – particularly in the transition between the screaming and clean singing, resulting in the latter occasionally sounding rather thin.
That being said, the music is damn fine (and it’s the music that matters right?). Salò’s sound of preference is situated right bang in the middle of post-hardcore and mathcore. Opener ‘Hunger Artist’ is the heaviest track of the EP, featuring jarring guitars that weave intricate hardcore riffs with discordant noises and stabbing guitar lines. ‘2-3-74’ is less abrasive than the first track, with the slower pace allowing a more noise-rock atmosphere to develop – more in line with the oldschool post-hardcore of bands such as Jawbox and The Jesus Lizard (but not so much Fugazi, as the press release suggests). All three members contribute vocals to the EP, and unlike what one review implied, I can distinguish between the various vocals parts just fine – with the coarse screams complimenting, rather than devaluing, the clean singing.
The technical alt-rock of ‘Pickmans Model’, which features screams and post-hardcore built around a simpler, more melodic foundation, is reminiscent of early Biffy Clyro – with scream/sing vocals that sound a hell of a lot like Simon Neil (and no, not just because both bands are Scottish). ‘Useless Marksman’ is more straight-ahead, melodic mathcore – with the gritty guitars, grumbly bass, and screamo vocals providing a real Shapes vibe. It features the lump-in-throat, vibrating, emo gargle that former From First To Last singer Sonny Moore used to wail out (aka Skrillex, that guy who is currently treading s*** all over dubstep). The best is track of the EP is undoubtedly the closer ‘Iphis Breathes/Black Contrail’, an excellent 9-minute slab of progressive post-hardcore. It kicks off with a blistering riff in that would rival any by Pulled Apart By Horses, and contains the Salò members’ best vocal performances – both the clean singing and impassioned screams. But what really marks this particular song out is the instrumental second half, which features the kind of intelligent guitar-work – both heavy and melodic – that is normally saved for the prog or math bands that reach god-like status. Also the glorious, groove-orientated bass-work (which is reminiscent of the latest output from Glassjaw) nears perfection.
Salò’s debut EP is certainly a necessary listen for any fans of the bands name-checked in this review. They have struck an ideal position between math-core experimentalism and melodic post-hardcore – all the while clinging onto a straight-up, hardcore-punk-rock essence, and even splicing some garage-y jangle into the guitars. My only gripes with the EP are that it could have done with a few more vocal hooks, and (more crucially) a few more instances of the final instrumentation of the closing song – hearing that musicianship just makes you wish that Salò had incorporated more prog-rock grooves and prolonged, melodic guitar-lines into their music. Hint Hint.