Indianapolis hardcore band Church Tongue has burst on to the scene with a heart-stopping debut album. Heart Failure sounds downright filthy on first listen, its bombastic, grimy hardcore seeping through the speakers and into your ears like an unsanitary ectoplasm. The aura is more angry and atonal than mindful and melodic, and the impassioned vocals atop Church Tongue’s sonic assault only serve to underscore the group’s subversive aesthetic.
Swinging away against the unavoidable ills of the world, vocalist Michael Sugars starts “Medicine Breath” by vehemently addressing a nameless villain: “You’re a walking, untreated disease / And I’m wondering how you have peace of mind.” The metallic vitriol brings to mind the work of ad hominem assailants All Pigs Must Die, or heated, antipodean diatribes like Hundredth’s recent “Dead Weight” single. However, the production of Heart Failure creates a far more sinister atmosphere than Hundredth’s ornamental affairs, while coming in a few threads short of APMD’s occultist garb.
I don’t know exactly where these guys stand on spiritual matters, but this is probably the perfect hardcore album for any angry renegade; it really doesn’t let up. (The last time I heard an LP this beautifully disheveled was departed Philadelphia punk band Leather’s overlooked album, Easy.) The first and only breath of reprieve occurs seven tracks deep on the rolling, reflective emo jam, “7:20.” The song sounding something like an unwashed Appleseed Cast, the viva voce comedown stands as the solitary stoic amid 35 minutes of unrelenting, hard-driving vexations.
As a band known for setting its guitarist aflame mid-set, Church Tongue’s live shows are apparently just as inflammatory as this album. I can only imagine the sweaty, hardcore sing-alongs that result from explosive Heart Failure cuts like the seething “Dark Days” and the penultimate rumination, “Room in Your Chest.” The album’s selections are often pierced by messy, squealing guitar feedback, further painting the picture of a dark basement show in which the band plays in eardrum-shattering fashion on the floor right in front of you. The major unfortunate caveat is that this is the kind of album that makes more sense in a live setting; you’re only witnessing half of the picture on this admittedly intense collection. Even still, its 11 hard-edged entries will remind you of metalcore, post-hardcore bands like Beartooth, Capsize, Ghost Key or Fit for a King. Heart Failure is a hell of a debut album for Church Tongue, and I can only see these guys getting better and more refined as they forge deeper into their career. Check out Church Tongue when they come to your town, and be sure to pick up Heart Failure when you’re in the mood for an absolute atom bomb of chaotic, indignant hardcore.