HOT FIENDS – Cult Supreme EP

Brighton’s Hot Fiends aren’t shy of a massive riff. Nor are they afraid of a sharp edged vocal. Their sound is much broader than a lot of other DIY punks, however, and on their debut EP ‘Cult Supreme’, they deliver some truly abrasive noises. In their own words, the music represents “a sonic slap”; for those keen to apply easy labels, it’s fair to say its five tunes take in hardcore punk traditions and splice the speed with bits of extreme post-metal, but the material also finds time to explore some genuinely uncompromising noise rock. When chucked in a giant musical blender, it ends up sounding much closer to a very confident post-hardcore racket, but the five tracks are anything but predictable.

Introducing the band very effectively, the short ‘Massive Weakling’ opens with a dirty riff that falls squarely between hardcore punk and alternative metal, at first lumbering forth with an ominous presence. Eventually breaking into something with a greater speed, the guitar parts intensify and create a razor sharp backdrop for an insane, retching vocal that throws out lyrical barbs almost constantly, which underscored with a siren-like lead guitar and a punchy groove, accentuates the band’s pure intensity. By switching between the two elements, these Fiends serve an absolutely brilliant and uncompromising sound that borrows influence from more modern acts like Pissed Jeans and USA Nails, albeit with even more anger.

That gets everything off to a very strong start, but the band aren’t about to hack out something very similar another four times and consider this debut a job well done. In fact, the following ‘Big Snake’ offers something markedly different when it opens with a metal influenced riff which makes the best of a darker sound and grubby tone. When it comes to a pure heaviness, Hot Fiends aren’t up there with the likes of Byzanthian Neckbeard, but the riff conveys a definite sense of weight. Moving through the number, the crunch intensifies and a shift into a more rhythmic post-hardcore crunch makes things a little more interesting. It isn’t until the instrumental break hits, though, that this tune really starts to fly. Armed with an atonal sound, the riffs draw a little more from Fugazi and The Jesus Lizard, but are redressed with a sharper, heavier edge for best results. After returning to the slow, heavy riff, Hot Fiends begin to sound truly angry, which ensures this hybrid of riffs and noise will leave a lasting impression.

Opting for something punkier, the pounding rhythm at the heart of ‘Plague Bringer’ works the drums very hard, and the angular guitar work, again, hints at a love of Fugazi, before making a switch to a more generic hardcore sound. By the time a round of scratchy vocals arrive, everything becomes somewhat reminiscent of early work by The Computers, but in keeping with the other tracks, these Fiends aren’t about to leave everything so wide open in the predictability stakes, and the middle of the track descends into some brilliantly weighty sludge. Cranking the bass to share more of a traditional hardcore punk groove and overlaying that with angular art punk guitars that call back to the challenging sounds of Drive Like Jehu, ‘Deep Sea Diver’ is both busy and speed driven. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a few interesting quirks, of course, and in this case, the punkier aspects are offset by a whirring lead guitar break that is far more atonal than this kind of tune would normally require. The directness of the riff and ferocity of the vocal actually make this a contender for the EP’s best track, whilst the much broader ‘Richard & Judy Do LSD Live On Air This Morning’ wraps up the experience by throwing all of the band’s best traits into a giant musical skip. You’ll find hardcore guitar riffs topped with shrill, almost punctuating noise; full scale grinds worthy of The Jesus Lizard; angry bursts of noise that hark back to Orange 9mm’s ‘Driver Not Included’, and eventually a classic hardcore/metal hybrid riff where a mid tempo groove allows for maximum chug. All of this is held together by a vocal that’s absolutely chaotic, sharing inaudible lyrics, relentless shrieking and some of the finest retching sounds since Against All Authority attempted to blend pure hardcore with speed driven ska…and somehow came out winning.

In terms of crossover sounds, this is immense. The hardcore moments opt for something broader than a quick rehash of old Black Flag and Circle Jerks tunes, but still settle into something much punkier than a lot of metal infused genre bending acts; the vocals are brutal without ever feeling completely impenetrable, and when slowing down, they present a bottom end that could pummel their listeners into submission with ease. Overall, ‘Cult Supreme’ is thrilling, frightening and brilliant – in almost equal measure. Those looking for a committed and brutal take on something within the post-hardcore realm should certainly give this a listen as soon as possible.

April 2024