WASP MOTHER – Digital Pollution EP

On this follow up to their ferocious ‘Self-Loathing’ EP of 2022, Massachusetts brutalists Wasp Mother challenge the idea of disposable media on their 2024 release ‘Digital Pollution’. In the band’s own words, “artists [have become] content creators with each successive work being left behind as new content fills the void of malaise.” They mourn the fact that “our appetites and attention span for media has become insatiable in a way where the meaning of the art we’re viewing is being lost in a sea of likes, comments, the all-knowing algorithm.” In short, there’s no longer time to stop and digest the wonders we’ve been given. We watch the YouTube clips; we then seek out new quick thrills. More importantly, we listen to an album; we then move on to another at the push of a button. We’ve somehow lost the ability to lose ourselves in a new set of songs, play them on a loop for weeks and actually feel the value of that art.

They’ve got a point. However, since ‘Digital Pollution’ was supposedly designed to make people “shut up and listen…stop and smell the garbage”, would it not have been a better idea to release something a bit more weight driven; something that ran longer than approximately nine minutes – ie: something to make people stop for a decent amount of time? That said, in a world of pointless Tik-Tok loops and Facebook reels, and people’s attention spans not stretching beyond about forty seconds, nine minutes is quite a long time to focus on anything – so maybe that’s the point. It also feels like an especially long time to spend with a band whose core sound is so confronting and relentlessly angry that they’ve absolutely pulvarised their audience by the end of the second track.

Nevertheless, ‘Digital Pollution’, for all of its fury, and for all of its noise, is a superb slice of grindcore. Presenting the most uncompromising side of Wasp Mother, ‘Akathesia’ kicks of with a sampled warning about side effects before launching face first into seventeen seconds worth of industrial grade pneumatics, on a short blast of noise where retching power-violence vocals stab through the heart of pure thrash worthy of ‘From Enslavement’ era Napalm Death, whilst ‘Hubris’ attacks with just as much intensity, but at half the speed. By opening with a slower grind and a deep growl, the track allows the listener more of an insight into the heart of the band’s sound before literally exploding into a pure grindcore riff where relentless drums and heavily distorted guitar lines are the equal of underground heroes Trocar at their most uncompromising. It doesn’t add anything new to the classic grindcore sound, but it’s clear that Wasp Mother have latched onto something absolutely masterful. Their abilities to share the brutalist sound with impeccable tightness is second to none.

For those looking for a little variety, this EP has that too, despite the incredibly short playing time. Following a burst of feedback, set highlight ‘Gravemouth’ drops into a world of massively distorted hardcore, working a riff that sounds like the arrival of an army of robotic elephants, before sliding into something closer to traditional grind. However, this too, shares a bit more scope in that the riffs have more of a metallic edge compared to the likes of hardcore/powerviolence bands like the much missed F-Minus, even though the vocals very much revert to type. Equally good, but different again, ‘Burnout’ kicks off with a hefty drum riff that borrows from classic punk, before adding a massive distorted riff that sounds like an old Discharge banger slowed to half speed. Throwing in a full power blast of grindcore for a big finish, there feels as if a lot has been packed into barely forty seconds here, but that just shows Wasp Mother’s musical gift at its best. It’s certainly a reason why this release works as well as it does. Yes, it’s incredibly short, but with numbers such as this feeling as if three ideas have been shared, it feels twice as long…

‘Boring’ shares one of the deepest bass sounds ever, and by switching repeatedly between relentless hardcore riffs and blasts of grindcore on the verse, it pulls the listener back and forth in a manner that’s truly unsettling. Eventually unveiling an even heavier sound to lurch through a really swampy riff aided by an almost death metal infused vocal, the number almost sounds like it’ll collapse under its own weight. If you’ve made it this far, of course, you’ll certainly be impressed by the noise this band is capable of bringing to the table. For those who’re still hanging in there, the big finish is immense. ‘Pale’ opens with moment or two of quiet instrumental work, where clean riffs adopt an almost prog like ambience (yes, really) and an ambling melody pulls the listener into a soft, but cold musical landscape. Then, with a mellow vibe fully achieved, the band pulls out their heaviest riff ever. A slow doom approach augmented by a power violence crunch takes on a speaker breaking volume as it lurches incredibly slowly, sharing an unbelievable weightiness. Then, as expected, at approximately two minutes in, the standard grindcore riffs take over, but by contrasting these with a few pure hardcore breakdowns and the return of the pure doom aesthetic, there’s more here than just older tropes being recycled. Making up half of this EP’s total playing time, this also provides a superb insight into Wasp Mother’s arrangement skills.

This release is almost impenetrable in places, but it’s never less than great, stylistically speaking. There are times when the sharper elements of Wasp Mother’s sound almost become a digital pollution in themselves, which highlights the fact that they’ve shared this with a tongue in cheek. And even though the shorter tracks are undoubtedly supposed to amuse with their disposable style, nothing here should be written of as a novelty. Is this something you’re likely to spin every day and consider a true classic of the genre? Likely not, but it makes its point in the best possible way, and in terms of absolutely ferocious grindcore, ‘Digital Pollution’ couldn’t have turned out much better. A superb slab of (almost) pure noise.

January 2024