Have you ever had a long list of errands, but only a short amount of time to complete them? That happens to me every time I have to clean my apartment. Sure, I try to keep the level of “single-guy dankness” to a minimum, but it’s easy to procrastinate and let the chores sweep themselves under the rug. When the time comes to whip the place into shape, it’s usually accompanied with a deadline, and consequently, some things aren’t as well cleaned as others. While my anecdote may seem anodyne, there’s a greater lesson to be learned: if you have limited time, don’t bite off more than you can chew. This old adage applies to Baltimore’s metal upstarts Noisem, a band that just a couple of years ago almost ceased to exist.
If any longtime Noisem fans are nervous, rest assured, new vocalist and bassist Ben Anft is the right man for the job. Ben sort of steals the show with his ballistic range of brutal vocalizations, and he’s able to authentically growl, scream, screech, and snarl with the best of them – which is good, because this isn’t exactly the same Noisem of yore. Instead of playing in their usual grindcore patois, this refurbished trio mixes in death, thrash, hardcore, and crust punk, with a sprinkle of grind here and there. Ben Anft can express his innermost feelings in each style, and brothers Sebastian and Harley Phillips keep up reliably well, with plenty of blast beats and riffs for the whole class to enjoy.
Cease To Exist clocks in at a svelte twenty-two minutes, about as long as a progressive rock suite or one of Kanye West’s projects from last year. This is where Noisem’s grindcore influence shines the most, with ten furious songs screaming by like a Delta Dart. Dizzying cuts like “Penance For The Solipsist” and “Putrid Decadence” stagger like haymakers to the chin, with savagely delivered lyrics and squealing solos. At their best, Noisem plays with the energy of a band with something to prove, and they hit the mark with “Eyes Pried Open”. This track is the pinnacle of modern Noisem: well-written and unpredictable, it’s almost like the group saved their most addicting riffs and catchy hooks for one perfect song. I swear, when I listen with my fat headphones on, it feels like the bass drum pedal is pounding against my eardrums. Much credit goes to Harley’s speedy feet – the Phillips handling the percussion must’ve run a marathon while sitting at his kinetic kit.
Unfortunately, Cease To Exist’s hasty gusto leads to an uneven listening experience. Even with Anft’s committed vocal performance, uninspired riffs make “Filth and Stye” sound like grindcore-by-the-numbers. “Sensory Overload” has a serious case of mistaken identity, as it awkwardly alternates between crust punk and brutal death. The track ends abruptly on a micro-solo that should’ve had more time to develop, but the band’s insistence on short, sharp songs limits their potential. There’s this thread of confused songwriting woven throughout the album that I can’t ignore: Noisem wants to cram thrash, punk, death, and hardcore into the length of a grindcore song, but the band doesn’t allow themselves enough time to explore each genre. Granted, brevity works in the listener’s favor when the album starts to drag, but that’s hardly a selling point. You listen, but why?
Jack of all trades but master of none, Cease To Exist grinds together a potpourri of aggressively average extreme metal. To their credit, Noisem sounds emboldened by their recent personnel changes, which adds a palpable air of embattled defiance that suits the album nicely. I’m happy that the brothers Phillips keep making music under the Noisem moniker, and it’s great that they feel liberated enough to experiment with their confrontational in-your-face style; however, there’s not many memorable moments on Cease To Exist, and while it hardly overstays its welcome, the album is as forgettable as it is brief. To all the hardcore Noisem fans, your mileage with Cease To Exist may vary; some of you will certainly like it, whereas some of you might rather spend your time tidying up your apartment.
Cease To Exist will be released on March 15th, 2019 on 20 Buck Spin.
You can support the band by buying the album here.