With amps fully cranked, the four songs that make up Izzy and The Black Trees’ ‘Go On, Test The System’ EP have a brilliant, live in the studio sound. The results mightn’t be as explosive as, say, the early works of A Place To Bury Strangers, but this Polish act have a similar love of distortion, and of reworking 90s influences to create an intensive experience. On this release, their no frills, full fuzz approach results in arrangements that explode with a really natural buzz; songs that owe a debt to Sonic Youth, The Jesus & Mary Chain, early PJ Harvey, and overlooked acts like Hammerbox and Yur Mum, yet still convey just enough of their own style to remain interesting.

Their sheer vigour comes through in massive waves during ‘Shutdown City’ when a raft of overdriven guitar chords set up a noise based riff that takes the guts of a post punk sound, applies a truckload of fuzz and the sneer of early PJ Harvey. Against a relentless riff – one that’s almost guaranteed to transport some listeners back to the heady days of 1994 – Izzy barks and yelps, introducing a vocal style that absolutely bristles with anger, but still manages to convey something with a broader sense of passion. Musically, there are some great elements lurking beneath the noise: the bass pounds with a real intent; bursts of guitar come through as if delivering Morse code and, latterly, the punk-goth fuzziness even allows for a howling guitar break that hints at something a little bluesier…without actually going there. If this is your first Black Trees experience, then it’s likely to be a positive one, since this is a tune that bustles and brims with a genuine energy and drive. The equally punchy ‘F16’ makes a superb feature of a fat, pulsing bass against an echoing vocal, before dropping into a jerky guitar riff that, again, takes on an almost Morse-like quality. If anything, though, there’s more of a relative subtlety here, especially in the way that some of the reverbed guitars add more of a cinematic feel, and the general groove leans towards more of a garage rock sound from the past. That’s not to say that those who were immediately drawn to the band’s more abrasive elements will feel cheated in any way, though, since Izzy’s lead vocal covers the entire arrangement with a massive performance that’s absolutely loaded with fury. In short, this is absolutely great; an incendiary noise that acts as a solid reminder of why noisy garage punk sounds will never die.

Quietening down just a little – and it’s all relative to the rest of the release – ‘Dive of A Broken Heart’ focuses around a strummed electric guitar smothered in reverb, making the band sound like a distant cousin of the early Bad Seeds. Working a riff slowly, the track allows plenty of room for a howling lead to break the melody, whilst Izzy delivers a near spoken vocal that is absolutely perfect for the dust bowl-esque sounds that’ve emerged. Cranking the volume, everything briefly takes on more of a JAMC influence, before falling away to allow for a mournful, wordless vocal. Eventually, all of the track’s best elements come together for a loud garage blues riff and vocal which, in some ways, sounds like the pure essence of the band’s sound, despite being a little more accessible. There’s a great atmosphere here, and the sound of a band who are able to take the garage blues sound further, and into more interesting environs.

The whole EP is very strong, but its with closer ‘New Horizon’ that the band leave their most indelible musical mark. Presenting a massive doom riff, it immediately sounds like something that should open out into something grander…but actually doesn’t. Instead, the band hammer the two chord groove into the ground, and with the aid of an especially crashy drum part, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with the mighty Melvins. Despite an unwavering core, this track never becomes boring with its repetitive approach; there are many flourishes added throughout that keep things moving. Occasional bursts of feedback take a very quirky approach by occasionally sounding as if the band have sampled demented seagulls; the lead vocal, despite possessing a pleasing Kim Gordon-esque flatness occasionally flaunts an unexpected Bolan like trill, whilst a few wordless sounds run through effects might bring peak Jane’s Addiction to mind. With the drums adding more chaos as the slow groove moves forward, this also adds a great layer of sound to the band’s dark and minimalistic approach, and by the time the last oppressive notes fade, there’s a sense of a job well done.

In just four songs, Izzy and her band present themselves as a true force of nature. Their fusion of garage rock and heavy doom influences creates something pleasingly intense; something that’ll rattle the hearts of almost every committed riff beast still hopped up on great alternative sounds from the 90s, whilst still sounding relevant at the time of release. The EP format really works, too; ‘…System’ has the kind of volatility that suits the short playing time, but still gives the listener more than enough to feel satisfied. Even with a few obviously recycled influences, this has enough absolute chutzpah to be one of the most exciting releases from the first quarter of ’24, and already championed by the BBC’s Steve Lamacq, this band already sound like they’re on the road to much bigger things. In a world where there’s a frightening amount of music available on the streamers, it can sometimes be hard to devote any quality time to underground acts, but you owe it to yourselves to check out this band. They deserve far more attention, and this EP provides the perfect place to start your journey, since ‘Go On, Test The System’ represents a small, near perfect burst of wondrous noise.

March 2024