by Torrey Proto
Don’t let all the noise and classic tangled post-hardcore aggression fool you, Exhalants can write a damn good hook. It would be easy for them to coast along on one bludgeoning speed throughout their self-titled debut LP, but a good noise rock band knows that they need more than that to inspire repeat listens. Thankfully, the Austin, Texas trio deliver in that regard, with a lean and well-crafted debut.
Formed out of the ashes of the hilariously-named Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, two-thirds of that now defunct project forged ahead under the Exhalants moniker, picking up where they had left off while pushing their aggressive sound to new heights. Upon initial spins, the three-piece’s master of dynamics becomes readily apparent. The immediacy of blistering early cuts such as the opening triage of “Latex,” “Cauterize,” and “Ego Death” showcases an infectious maelstrom of punishing guitar-work from vocalist Steve Pike. “Ego Death” reveals a surprising melodic sensibility underneath the anxious instrumentals and is surprisingly uplifting in its conclusion, as Pike repeatedly pleads for someone or something not to leave. This proves to be just one of many subversively catchy moments on the album.
Meanwhile, following the opening salvo, Exhalants take a more measured approach with the patient sludge found on songs like highlight “Public Display of Failure.” The track’s push and pull oscillation of the tempo creates a woozy and hypnotic atmosphere with a forceful and assured rhythm courtesy of the glorious low end gravel supplied by bassist Bill Indelicato and drummer Thomas Rabon. The pummeling rhythm section prove to be the lifeline for the band throughout the record, with Indelicato’s impeccable tone carrying plenty of the melodic weight when the guitars are busy making noise.
While the sounds of their predecessors such as D.C. cult heroes like Hoover or post-rock luminaries Slint run strong through Exhalants’ veins, there is more than enough variety within the record’s ten tracks to make a mark on the crowded punk landscape. The tight three piece prove to be worthy successors to the noise and punk bands that have clearly influenced them. Their sharp focus and intricate arrangements showcase a keen attention to detail that seems a rarity these days. With a restless pulse connecting each of the songs and carrying the band’s momentum forward even in the record’s slower moments, this promising and vital debut will assuredly scratch your itch for righteous and cathartic punk.