Jackals – self-titled (7″ EP)

Jackals - self-titled 7"According to the short blurb I have here, Jackals play powerviolence. And before I go any further, let’s acknowledge that subgenres of a subgenre like powerviolence aren’t categories or pigeonholes so much as they are useful descriptors, a short-hand to try and trace the influences and heritage of sound that leads to any given band, record or song. But that aside, if this is powerviolence then I’ve had a poor understanding of it for years, because bands like Man is the Bastard never really clicked with me, whereas the pace and violence of the five brutal tracks on this self-titled EP does resonate. That’s part of the joy of reviewing music; hearing new material, finding new things you like, learning how you were wrong, and developing a broader understanding of music.

Jackals are a heavy band; before I clocked the term powerviolence I felt they had a bit of a Coliseum / Modern Life Is War vibe (albeit being more straightforward and intense that some of MLIW’s sadly curtailed output). Their aggressive take on hardcore deploys some cool and innovative riffs without holding back on the tempo; equally, they’re happy to throw in slow, sinister build-ups here and there. The short track that opens this EP is a case in point; ‘Ritualistic Chest-beater’ (which I figure is a reference to macho chest-thumping during breakdowns, before the mosh kicks back in) leads into the rest of the EP well, letting the intensity build slowly before the next track, ‘Diseased’, erupts. ‘Diseased’ wrong-foots you, though; despite being only 58 seconds long it starts intense before dropping into a short breakdown, and then stomping on with a fat, meaty riff chased by gruff and throaty dual vocals.

‘Free of Life’ also clocks in at about a minute, using a similar structure to ‘Diseased’, layering a ferocious scream over a few stripped-down moments before leaping forward with an intense pace. Ditto ‘Embers’, which builds up with more sinister guitar, feedback and thumping drums before it bursts. At this point although the songs have been good, they’ve been getting a little structurally predictable.

Fortunately Jackals end with a bang: ‘You’re Nothing’, which at three minutes is far and away the longest song on offer, puts a spin on the same build/explode formula by layering in some intricacy that makes the song much more affecting.

Live I think I’d really dig Jackals, both for the more straightforward hardcore/powerviolence tunes, and for their more experimental moments. On record I definitely prefer the latter, but this is not a shabby EP by any stretch of the imagination.

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