Death Pill’s self titled debut album instantly became one of the best records of 2023. On that release, the Ukranian hardcore punks not only proved they could share riffs that were every bit the equal of the pioneering American scene back in 1979/80, but also showed off a great ability to temper their punk with occasional swathes of metal. Packed with a world of absolutely brutal riffs, it set the band out as one of the greatest arrivals on the punk scene since Natterers issued their uncompromising demo flexi in 2016. Since Shooting Daggers made almost as much of a striking impression on their ‘Manic Pixie Dream’ EP in 2021, the bands are a very natural pairing for a split 7”, and this release from the New Heavy Sounds label does not disappoint.

‘Monsters’ by Death Pill takes a very different stance to their LP material at first by presenting a quirky verse that sounds like Jello Biafra helming a twisted carny arrangement. It’s brilliantly twisted and guaranteed to grab your attention. Pretty quickly, though, the band revert to type with a manic blast of hardcore punk that not only compliments the yelped vocal but absolutely elevates it. Armed with a razor sharp, speed driven riff, Death Pill once again prove that they’re able to make classic hardcore sound frighteningly relevant in the twenty first century, before taking a sidestep into a hardcore punk/metal hybrid sound for a slower, crushing breakdown to fill the rest of a very uncompromising track. Closing with a maniacal laugh seems incredibly appropriate too, since ‘Monsters’ also features a lyric that takes a massive swipe at the loss of innocence and how children eventually outgrow their parents, which makes the carny-esque qualities feel all the more unsettling. With Death Pill showcasing most of their musical tricks in under two and half minutes, it’s an absolute riot.

Shooting Daggers, not to be outdone, unveil something just as pointed musically, and even more so, lyrically. ‘Not My Rival’ wastes no time in ushering in an incredibly heavy bass and dirty guitar, cranking the riffs on a punchy verse. With neither being dominant and with the punchiness of a great sounding drum part this shows off a particularly full sound, suggesting that that it’s possible to do something relatively lo-fi without resorting to sounding cheap. The vocals outdo most of the music, however, when the band opt for shouting gang vocals calling back to the formative years of the riot grrrl movement – a move that’s just perfect for the rallying cry for gender recognition, for dismantling the male gaze when it comes to same sex relationships. It’s sad that these things would still be an issue in 2023, but the message here is clear: it’s time to “break the cycle, shake things up”. With the help of a pointed solo and, latterly, a faster riff and even more furious vocals, this isn’t just a punk workout with an angry stance, it’s a full blown queercore anthem.

In terms of split releases, this is hard to beat. Yes, there is only one new song apiece and, yes, it’s all over too soon, but both tracks are the perfect distillation of each act. Full of the blistering sounds and the kind of socially conscious attitudes that both bands have made their forte, this is a small but riff heavy, anger driven blast that fans of either band will love in a heartbeat.

November 2023