D – beat punk is one of those genres, like grindcore or depressive black metal, that takes a lot of flak for being overly formulaic. Usually, the accusations come from kids outside the scene, since those of us who actually listen to this stuff do so because we enjoy the style, don’t mind the similarities, and recognize the beauty in not having to constantly reinvent your genre. After all, Discharge themselves are extremely guilty of the aforementioned repetitive songwriting, but none of us are gonna stop listening to Discharge anytime soon.
All the same, it’s refreshing to find bands that experiment with different sounds and take D-beat to new places, and San Francisco’s RHIZOME are a great example. Their self-titled debut absolutely rips and is slated for release on March 11 through a label that’s really killing it right now, TRANSYLVANIAN TAPES. I was also stoked to learn that Rhizome, like many of the finest bands California and beyond have to offer, did this demo at the mighty EARHAMMER STUDIOS with GREG WILKINSON of BRAINOIL and DEATHGRAvE fame! Without further ado, check out the Bandcamp stream and read our review below…
“COWARD” is a really strong start to the tape, and the catchiness of the opening riff effectively draws us into the record as a whole. One immediately notices old-school nods, most prominently the shouted, echoing vocals that are buried in the mix just enough to cut through while still letting the guitars dominate. Even more exciting, though, are the melodic hardcore-esque chord changes; definitely a new twist on the cliché structures we often hear. The song’s final breakdown is as heavy as it is invigorating, and all in all, the track is a minute and 30 seconds of fun, hooky D-beat. Still, Rhizome is careful not to let us get too uplifted, and their darker side becomes apparent as soon as they hit us with the angular opening to “WORLD STOPS TURNING.”
The following tracks walk that same line between triumphant punk anthems and frustrated, sinister crust. This technique lends itself to brief, spastic songs, which serve the band rather well, leaving us listeners wanting more and wondering what just hit us rather than allowing anyone to zone out. “FAÇADE” reminds me a lot of LIBERTEER in that it highlights quick, fist-pumping major scale moments amid a sea of dissonance and confusion. Occasionally, things lapse far enough into chaos that a few listens are required before one can fully grasp what’s going on, but for the most part Rhizome have found a very effective balance of accessibility and complexity.
“IN AGONY” is yet another solid track that shows the band staying in close touch with their punk roots, and some of Lilly J.’s most beautifully pained and desperate vocal delivery is found here. There’s a really well-orchestrated buildup towards the end that reinvigorates the epic-of-sorts, which as the longest track on the album, clocks in at 2 minutes and 12 seconds. “DEAF/BLIND” blows past in what seems like an instant, giving us one final chance to bang our heads, and simply acting as the last assault of a breakneck tape that never lets up and leaves just as quick as it came. This demo chews you up and spits you out, and for that reason Cvlt Nation’s definitely going to be keeping a close eye on these folks… Rhizome, we salute ya!
You can purchase “RHIZOME” digitally here, but if I were you, I’d save my money till the tapes come out on March 11!