High Tension brings together Karina Utomo and Ash Pegram from Young and Restless and Matt Weston and Dan McKay from The Nation Blue, and their second album Bully breaks through a threshold of intensity that was set by their 2013 release Death Beat. Built out of menacing riffs, screaming vocals laden with attitude, and guitars so dirty you’d be ashamed if your mother heard them, this album absolutely lets loose.
Whether or not the band’s heaviness is your cup of tea, the conceptual ideas behind the music are topical and somewhat universal. ‘Bully’ is actually a reference to confronting your own personal bully, and the title track is, to use the words of frontwoman Utomo, about “conquering fear relating to the feminine struggle.” A lot of the tracks touch on a variety of personal struggles, like pushing past personal boundaries in Sports, personal sacrifice in Lucky Country (Part 2) and self-loathing in Take Control. Utomo’s heritage is also a source of inspiration, touching on things like her upbringing in Jakarta, and darker, wider-reaching events such as a reference a mass killings involved in the communist purge in Indonesia in the 60s.
The band have roped in some help for a couple of tracks. Matt Young of King Parrot helps out for the political post-metal duet Lapindo, and Adalita weighs in with some melodic influence on What’s Left, which is probably the least heavy tune on the album due to the relative presence of singing over screaming.
If you’re a hardcore punk aficionado, there’ll be plenty to keep your ears enthused in Bully. Referencing blends of post-punk and hard stoner-rock in Guillotine, early thrash in Killed By Life and early 90s emo vibes in Static Screens, this is an album with a sound as complex as its underlying subject matter.