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Power Violence

Rural Anti-Bastard Mapleviolence: A Look At VOID BRINGER ‘Cruel and Unusual’

Syrup-slow when it’s not falcon-fast, Void Bringer‘s approach to grinding hardcore is a breath of fresh Green Mountain air. While it is a favored pastime to debate whether powerviolence is still a genre, was ever a genre, or will last as a genre, this trio of violent Vermonters combine their considerable talents to create a gritty, uncivilized, and damned powerful blend of raw aggressive hardcore, blitzing grind, and treacly sludge make it fully justifiable to call them one of the most exciting powerviolence groups in the country. It is no wonder that one of their earliest and most dedicated champions has been the legendary Max Ward (Spazz, Plutocracy, Charles Bronson, Scholastic Deth, Evolved To Obliteration, etc.), who released their first cassette and, along with Blind Rage, is releasing the band’s incendiary new EP, Cruel and Unusual, which builds on all of the excellent songcraft of their previous releases.

Cruel and Unusual follows Three Inches of Hate, Three Inches of Love, Void Bringer’s contribution to the ongoing series of limited 3″ vinyl releases by Blind Rage. That EP saw the band squeezing three songs into five minutes, which they were well-suited for, considering the majority of their songs come in under the minute mark, and considering their brilliant 2020 single “Usurper” gets the job done in 11 seconds. In fact, one of the songs on the 3″, “Apocalyptic Visions Resulting From a Fear Induced State,” is actually the longest in their catalog, so where most bands feel pressure to condense their art to fit it to a pocket-sized vinyl record, Void Bringer found plenty of legroom.

The seven inches of terror on Cruel and Unusual begin with a familiar voice on the opening track, “Lords.” Jack Nicholson’s George Hanson in Easy Rider lectures Dennis Hopper’s Billy on the meaning of freedom in contemporary America. “I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are.” Of course, this bit of dialogue is as relevant today as it was in 1969, and it serves as a brilliant opener to an album that points to abusive, manipulative power structures in our world. The band gives the listener a moment barely a moment to process the quote before the song erupts into a chest-pounding frenzy of suffocating tone. It takes less than forty seconds for any newcomer to realize that Void Bringer is the real deal and that they are fully ready to school a new generation on what good powerviolence should be.

Photo by @corearchy

The energy on “Cruelty” feels like you are listening to the band’s last set of their career, the one where they’re quitting while they’re at the top of their game. It sounds like they are destroying all of their instruments as well as the venue. It is rare to capture this kind of adrenaline-soaked, heart-filled enthusiasm on record, as it’s usually reserved for small live shows where everyone knows everyone else, but Void Bringer has channeled it here. “Caudillos” is an aptly named military campaign of a song, exchanging artillery blasts with marching tempo stomping, all of which leaves the listener dazed and catching their breath, wondering if the Tommy Wright III sample that ends the piece is just a hallucination.

Following the metallic beatdown of “Vassals” is early single “F.F.S.,” which was an appropriate early single, for its savage muscularity packs all of the band’s impressive strengths into one potent track. The unfiltered aggression that pervades the grinding and knuckle-dragging sections on this magmatic track shows that Vermont’s take on powerviolence is every bit as real and hard as defining California bands like Crossed Out, No Comment, and Spazz, as well as newer acts like Cave State.

Without losing any of the teeth-grinding toughness, second single, “Curriculum,” integrates some math elements with on-a-dime tempo and time signature changes, giving it a jazz feel in some sections and reinforcing that this trio of musicians has a very rare musical chemistry.

EP closer, “Kaliyuga,” ends the album where it began by returning to George Hanson and Billy’s Easy Rider dialogue:

Hanson: “They’ll talk to ya and talk to ya and talk to ya about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.”

Billy: “Well, it don’t make ’em runnin’ scared.

Hanson: “No, it makes ’em dangerous.”

Just as Cruel and Unusual is a suitable name for this ruthless and innovative EP, so too would be Free and Dangerous, as Void Bringer is a band who cares only about their own creative vision, one that is deep and menacing, fast and vicious. If the endorsement of Ward and the production work of Will Killingsworth on this and previous releases wasn’t enough to Void Bringer on everyone’s radar, this debut EP is sure to do it, and it is sure to very quickly establish this band as one of the most exciting bands to watch. Cruel and Unusual will put Vermont on the national map of powerviolence as a scene that is verdant and thriving.

Void Bringer’s Andrew and Matt S talked to Cvlt Nation about the band and about their new EP.

Firstly, please list band members and any other projects the musicians are involved with. 

Andrew: Void Bringer is made up of Andrew (myself, guitar), who also plays guitar in a sludge band called Sachem and until recently played bass in the Path, which is Matt K’s (bass) main band, Matt S who writes and records with us on drums and has been involved in numerous bands (Nimbus Terrifix, Barbarian Lord, Ruinacre) and Elliott L who plays live with us most of the time, is also in Sachem, is the main force behind a death metal project called Worm Hive, and pretty much every other project we have.  We’re like a collective in that respect.  

Void Bringer released its first demo in 2018. What was the initial vision for the band? How did you form?

Andrew: The initial vision of the band was to be fast, dirty, and relentlessly pissed, but just a side project, which it still is, more or less.   

Matt S: I answered a Craigslist ad Andrew posted seeking a drummer for “the heaviest band on earth”. Turned out that he also had a bunch of fast songs written, and we would split the time between the slow and long and the short and fast. Eventually, I bowed out of Sachem, but we kept the fast songs going as a project, which became VB. I contributed the less brutal 2nd guitar on the demo, plus drums, and Matt and I have done some backing vox.

The band has been releasing music consistently since its formation. Can you describe your writing process?

Andrew: It’s funny….the process has actually been so long and drawn out for a fast band with short songs.  Because we all live in different towns with a fair amount of space between them, our process is actually very slow because coordinating practice/recording can be difficult. Usually, I will have a song ready to go from just riffing by myself. Then, when we are able to get together, it comes to life. Often the Matts will tweak the original idea a bit for the better. Someone once gave me a great piece of advice for this style of music: take the riffs you have for the song and cut them in half.

Matt S: Andrew is prolific with riffs and ideas, so though we don’t jam that often, when we do it’s not unusual to knock out a few new songs a practice. Much easier now that we have a few years under our belt and can intuit time changes and the general tone of Andy’s riffs.

You have shown mastery of long and short songs on your different releases. How do you approach writing a short song vs a longer song?

Andrew:  Also playing in a doom/sludge band, I’m no stranger to longer songs.  On the rare occasion that VB kicks out a long jam, it’s usually with the intent to end a set with or really drive home a specific feeling of dirge or fear.  

Matt S: Cannabis is the culprit.

What are some of the major musical influences for the band? What about lyrical influences?

Andrew: The main influences are everything you would think they would be for a band like this, but aside from that, late 1990’s/early 2000’s Toronto area bands such as all the Colohan ones (Ruination, the Swarm, Left For Dead), Haymaker, Oxbaker, and Fuck the Facts – bands that are super fast and to the point but sound thick and heavy.  As far as lyrical influence, I also draw heavily from Left For Dead (an example of a perfect band, in my opinion) as well as bands like High on Crime and all the Partners in Crime bands.  Basically, they are pure expressions of anger or frustration at the current state of things or specific instances from history.     

Matt S: I’m old enough to have been into first wave of PV stuff when it came out, and was/am heavily influenced by stuff that was put out on Slap a Ham, 625, Six weeks, Sound Pollution, Fetus, Bovine, Satan’s Pimp, etc. Bands that played a role are Cold World (Austria), Assuck, Suppression, Cap Cas, No comment, DY, Dissension (CT), Apt. 213, Dystopia, Gasp, Ottawa, Rorschach, AF4, Spazz… Growing up in MN, I also couldn’t escape the influence of Husker du, the Replacements, Soul Asylum, and AmRep stuff like Hammerhead, Helmet, Halo of Flies…. all the great bands out of the SW/NM: Word Salad, Laughing Dog, Noisear, Logical Nonsense, Malignus Youth, Shitbastard… and the best LP of the last decade is Gas Chamber’s Hemorrhaging Light. Holy shit.

You’ve been vocal as a band about social justice issues. Can you talk about how the current state of the world affects your writing?

Andrew:  I think the most important aspect of everything to remember is that because the world is changing so fast, and because of the constant connection, that things are going to continue to be wild, and that systems will double down on maintaining themselves.  Obviously, the demo was a reaction to the 2016 election, and this new EP is about the abusive mechanisms not just here, but all around the world.  We have also written material (on the 3”) about the mental toll all of this can take us.   Systems are built to maintain systems, not people.  This concept is a central creative motivator.     

Photo by @corearchy

Please describe the music scene in Vermont.

Andrew: One of the most common things we hear from people who are either not from here or connected to the subculture at all is “I thought it was all Phish and Twiddle up here.”  It is not.  We promise.  Though the vitality of the scene has fluctuated greatly over the years, there has always been a strong punk, hardcore, and metal presence up here with some truly great bands.  That said, the scene as a whole is awfully fragmented, and the crusty/blackened “Punks in the Woods” of central Vermont don’t often come to the hardcore shows in Burlington.  Similarly, the hardcore kids who are here and rep bands like Jesus Piece or Code Orange (both of which have arguably surpassed hardcore) don’t really go to the more…feral shows.  Something that I have been intensely proud of is VB’s ability to entice both crowds and even bring them together.  We’ll just as happily play a veteran’s hall show with mosh bands as we will a generator-powered event in the woods with stick logo bands.  

Matt S.: Agreed. But there is, by and large, an enormous amount of jamgrass type tunes here that get the big draw. You can find most any type of music you’d like to see/listen to here, but you have to dig or drive to get it! I’m still new to the state, but it’s filled with incredibly motivated and talented folks, and people are INTO  music here, both good and less good.

How was reception of your last few releases?

Andrew: Very well received!  We are totally sold out of copies of the demo and are being asked to repress it.  Each time we put out even just a 10-second song (literally) we get some great feedback.  With the help of Max Ward, we have been able to reach people across the country, and even around the world.  We had some cool offers for shows far outside of Vermont…then Covid came crashing.  

Matt S: Better than I thought it would be!

How did you approach writing for the new EP?

Andrew: There wasn’t too much thought put into it, really.  We did, however, want it to have a theme and an arc: once again, that systems are meant to maintain themselves and will turn especially repressive and brutal when challenged or when perceiving themselves on the way out.  Mix that with a segment of the population that can easily be turned violent when presented with the right threats to their perceived freedom and…the world in the late 2010s/early 2020s.  All of this taken in can be overwhelming and leave someone feeling defeated and at the mercy of things.  But, it doesn’t need to be that way.  The Bastards will be relentless, so you’ve got to be able to look out for yourself and your community.  We really try to live that up here, and the record is a testament to that.  

How did you connect with Blind Rage?

Matt: A year ago, I’d helped out a local hardcore/punk band here in Burlington called Gone Wrong by putting out their EP on cassette through my label Get Stoked! In an effort to promote the release, I got an article published on No Echo about it. Apparently, the article got them a lot of attention and Carlos at No Echo said it got over 10,000 hits or something crazy like that. I think people were really hyped on them because they’re all teenagers, professional skateboarders, and play songs that sound like Negative Approach. Anyway, James from Blind Rage got wind of them and offered to release the 7” version of the EP. Because I was already doing the tape, James and I started to talk a lot. I let him know about all the current punk/hardcore/powerviolence bands in Vermont and naturally told him about The Path and of course Void Bringer. I also let him know Max Ward from 625 Thrashcore had helped co-release Void Bringer’s 2018 Demo with me and that he was living here in Vermont. So eventually we let him know about the new batch of songs we were recording and he (along with 625) offered to release a 7”.

What are some future plans for Void Bringer?

Andrew: We’re always writing, so I’m sure we’ll be recording soon, and most likely with Urian Hackney of Rough Francis and who also sometimes plays in this obscure Boston-based band called Converge… We’ve got a split coming out with Youth Dispute, a powerviolence side project from some of the Gone Wrong kids.  Most of all, we would very much like to play outside of Vermont when time allows so as to spread our Rural Anti Bastard Mapleviolence throughout the continent, and possibly the world.  So, bookers….hit us up.  Summer is best…

Matt S: Ah, I’d love to play with some out-of-state friends! Nudge Philly peeps! Also, beers and tacos with Jason Crawford, at his place.

What should people know about Void Bringer?

Andrew:  Matt S is a legitimate homesteader who literally built his house with his own two hands and lives a basically self-sustaining life in the middle of nowhere with huge gardens.  I am a special education teacher who works with disadvantaged students in a therapeutic setting and am also starting up a farm with the hopes of being self-sustaining one day.  Matt K is a social worker who tirelessly advocates for those in the most need.  We really try to live our convictions.  Of course, we are not perfect.  Far from it, in fact.  But, we try to do what we can to ease the suffering inflicted on both the planet and the people (and animals) on it by these voracious systems and power structures.  Things will become increasingly askew, pulling us away from both the land and each other, and this is our way of firmly standing up to that.  

Matt S.: Obviously we all have many things that make up our lives beyond this band.  I also spend lots of time cooking, both at work for a private school, and at home. Rock climbing, biking, being a new Dad and old partner, gardening, building….when you think about our releases being a 7”, future split 7” and demo over the last 5 years, there’s a lot of life lived that hasn’t been behind a drum kit!

Is there anything else you’d like to say? 

Andrew:  First of all, thank you for this opportunity to talk about VB.  Any interest/encouragement means a lot to us. Shout out to James Groth and Max Ward for all their help.  Shout out to Jon Berg for all of his footwork and contributions to this project over the years.  Shout out to Brett Nagafuchi, the Wizard of Mt. Din Audio who has been our engineer thus far.  Check out these Vermont (and a few non-VT) bands who surely wish to expand beyond our woods:  The Path, Sachem, Gone Wrong, Old North End (O.N.E.), Gorcrow, Rough Francis, Fentanyl Surprise, Melkor, Crow FuneralVoices In Vain, Black Axe, Augurah, Porcelain Moon, Ca$e Closed,  Vs.,  Plastered SaintsNick Grandchamp and the People Watchers, Wild Leek River, Big Shot (NY), Age of Apocalypse (NY) and Commitment In Pain. 

Matt S: Thanks Max, James, and Brett Nagafuchi! Thanks Zoe, Iggy, Andrew, Matt K, and Elliot for keeping this going! And Patrick Mayton for the 7” artwork!

Pick up Cruel and Unusual from 625 Thrash, To Live A Lie, Blind Rage, or from Void Bringer.

Written By

Evan lives in Arizona and works as an English and History teacher. He loves to learn new things and meet new people.

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