Two years ago Exit_International released their debut album ‘Black Junk’. The album was an impressive first strike into the noise rock community. Since then the band have toured the UK and hopped over to Japan, as well as being shortlisted for the Welsh Music Prize. The band also gained airplay for a week on Radio 1 with a re-imagined version of ‘Chainsaw Song’, which included the bemused Fearne Cotton introducing them and not knowing quite what to say. They are well known for their raucously loud and abrasive shows as well as for dominating eardrums with two bass guitars and a drum set. Lead singer Scott pounds out melodies whilst Fudge backs on a terrifying bass rhythm and Adam is erratic but on well defined drums. ‘Black Junk’ was a foray into the interesting idea of crossing the weird with the popular.
After their explosive debut the band decided to kick things up a gear, and inspired by mentor and friend Ginger Wildheart (who took them out on tour with him a couple of times) they launched a PledgeMusic campaign for their next album – sort of like a Kickstarter based solely on music. With incentives such as vocal, bass and drum lessons, as well as the chance to buy a cover off the band, fans jumped at the chance to fund the new release. The outcome was‘Our Science Is Golden’ recorded in Monnow Valley Studios, and the new 12 track album is a massive step forward for the band. Two years ago I did a track by track review and I thought it best to do that again. With insights provided by Scott, here is ‘Our Science Is Golden’ in its entirety:
Opening with no warning and a colossal vocal rise that immediately hints at the leap forward from the band, ‘Weird Card’ is a song about being different – which is definitely apt for the band and the album. This album sees the debut of a six string bass and whilst some purists may argue that this could be perceived as actually having a ‘normal’ guitar in the band, the tone is still clearly Exit_International’s bassy growl. The lyrics are full of a very familiar trait for fans: nihilism. The seething verses are mixed with pounding pop choruses, complete with “shalalas” that don’t seem out of place. The line “play the weird card” almost seems a little self-deprecating, but it doesn’t seem like its referring to the band’s strange ways, rather talking about the song’s subject being a little over the top.
It’s still hard to believe that the band still only consists of three instruments, the array of sound thrown out is mesmerising. As ‘The Creeps’ begins its hard not to be floored by this, but you then grin widely as Scott orders you to “get your creep on!” Pop and dance sensibilities are rife in the repetitive vocals but they’re always masked by screams and unholy noise, as if the band have locked a pop songstress in their basement and are extracting ideas from her in a gruesome way. Exit_International songs seem to be written with hip-shaking in mind, even quoting Missy Elliot “get your freak on” although probably not meant in the same way. Darkly muttering, as if hiding a secret, Scott growls “I found something, I got rid of it” and then sings it out, filling the listener with dread. The dread is realised as the song turns on its head by declaring “you’re giving me the creeps”. It’s a schizophrenic anthem about pushing the boundaries, something that should be familiar to the band and fans alike.
The track begins with a drum machine and effected almost-rap, throwing all preconceptions you had about the band out of the window. Exit_International aren’t afraid to experiment before heading back into the punishingly familiar. Scott’s voice is scarily versatile as well as being able to batter the senses, throughout the album the vocals dip and soar through different styles. It does seem though that at points the vocals seem to be lost in the noise, so maybe a lyrics sheet would be handy to really decipher the screaming. The demented switches between the playful yet dark vocals from Scott and aggressive blasts from Fudge are unnerving but will excite the dedicated fan. It’s like two songs are packed into one. The drums are well structured to realise this too, continuing without relenting, swapping from skins to cymbals effortlessly for different sections at an unnerving pace.
Fuck Yeah! Depression
Scott tells me that after the first three pop songs, the album goes “off the rails.” This track certainly demonstrates that. Opening with foreboding grungy noise the song then powers into some great effected melody lines backed up by the always growling bass. The lyrics really open up and come into their own, still representing the nihilism and growling anguish we come to expect but adding an extra edge of meaning than what appeared in their previous effort. There seems to be a good balance between the onslaughts and the breaths, a rhythm to the madness. The title and lyrics have their tongues firmly in their cheeks; no one is celebrating mental illness here, more dryly tearing it apart. The inspired chant of “wallow, wallow, wallow” really cuts through well and the entire song is a twisted anthem designed to mess with your head. If that wasn’t enough, the bridge descends into a fantastically hard groove – a great pairing of bass and drum unlike any other Exit_International song so far.
Black Jesus (Pink Pound)
With a title that Kanye West would be proud of, the audio bludgeoning continues. The vocals are penned and mostly performed by Fudge on this track, and having him lead the track shows where the two elements of noise and pop come from. Hitting hard, the track mixes bass chugs with squeals of feedback and throws all the pop sensibilities out of the window. It almost seems like the drums are fighting through the noise to be heard at some points. Fudge’s vocals are a complete change of direction and this is possibly the heaviest you might have heard Exit_International thus far. The shouts, noise, and pounding give way to even more madness as Scott croons “Black Jesus loves me…” over whining feedback. The track is of a familiar subject to the band – religion (and in this case their views on homosexuality) – but it’s the only track on this album to bring it up.
The heaviness dissipates for a moment on ‘Crux’, giving you a chance to catch your breath as a simple bassline and drum beat duet before Scott careens back in with a scream and the depravity continues. The track is an oasis of pop after the complete meltdown of the previous track. It’s easy to imagine the band being tied to torture devices as they recorded in the studio coming from the amount of raw anguish and pain that blasts out of every note. The straining voices aren’t ever very far from screaming. Riffs and clever vocals drive the song, mixing with the powerful noise in a unique way between breath-like drum breaks. The presence of the six string bass is clear and it’s definitely added an extra dimension, but the songs are even bassier than before – if that were possible. The song shows the new complexity and influences of other bands even incorporating a brief but honest and stripped back bridge before the band composes itself and hammers out a stomping outro.
If you want to know the meaning of the title, I’d suggest Urban Dictionary, but definitely don’t image search it. This and ‘Weird Card’ are slated to be singles, but how this track will get past the censors is anyone’s guess. This time, even to the trained ear, it’s hard to guess that everything’s played on bass. Some of the bass sounds so much like guitar it’s easy to second guess it. Stuttering and falsetto verses give way to the creepy and sneering “you’ve got to ruin your mind…” before bringing back the “shalalas” once again. It does become apparent that this is one of the poppier songs with a perfect structure locked in, but it doesn’t seem like it should be with its bizarre loops and twists. Again the sense that about five songs are packed into one shows that the band is not devoid of ideas, but in fact are brimming over with them.
Our Science Is Golden
With a far slower pace, this title track is a clear initial standout. It features some of the best discernible lyrics on the album and the vocals are far and away far more interesting this time than on ‘Black Junk’. Scott provides an insanely great vocal performance on this track (he told me he wanted to prove he could sing). The beats and bass swing in and out and even wander off beat to add an extra element of unease. Scott told me this is a love song, and you certainly get the feeling that there is a definite wider spectrum of emotion here. The bass moves up and down the octaves, skimming across notes while retaining a gruesome swagger, like a wasted Jack The Ripper.
The slower pace is abandoned in the next track, striking out with a fast paced punk/Atari Teenage Riot-inspired attack. The extreme song takes the theme of nihilism and shreds it even further, featuring the lyrics “You people make me feel f**king sick!” and “I’m the king of the f**king world!” This track features screams contributed by fans of the band and they are used to great effect. Pairing high and low shouts from Scott and Fudge, the short burst is reminiscent of ‘Blindfolds’ from the last album but with a lot more bite. The song is a pure vessel of hate and angst and really cements the breadth of what the album achieves.
The Nein Tease
With this track you can tell their sound has definitely expanded for the better. Whilst you had solid songs in the first album, the tracks were never as deep as you hoped. These tracks are much more than that. ‘The Nein Tease’ has almost Muse-like qualities with a fantastically cool chorus, great backing vocals, and once again, great leads. It’s almost hard to believe it’s the same singer as the one on ‘Black Junk’, the vocal notes bend and harmonise perfectly throughout. Again there are so many guitar-like sounds, but it’s still all bass. The songs are far more about the feelings than the sound this time around. Moods are heavily embedded within each part of the track, pounding away with polished Pulled Apart By Horses strains.
From such an upbeat track before (if you could call it that), this track starts terrifyingly down. Screaming feedback lays the base for humming vocals and lyrics to make you itch before catapulting into a noise heavy verse. The chorus shows the real menace though, with the line “Where did you learn to **** like that?” snaking around a crawling bassline. It’s almost like a new version of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’, but not as sprawling or even subtle. In fact it’s simple and effective, like a call back to their debut but with a lot more focus and mood. The vocals change from sinister soars to the reassuring screams reminding you that this is still an Exit_International record, especially in the tracks short but sweet outro.
Sod Off Punk
The sinister changes to the angry once again with a wild scream to bring this song in. The shouts of the title are countered by the lyrics like “Despite our pretty songs and stained glass, we’re nothing but a virus.” The exasperated delivering matches the driving rhythms, as if it’s a long-paced and terrified run to escape the horrors of the songs before. Demented yelling precedes a bunch of noise, speed and flying vocals – just like you’d expect in a finale – before it turns into an eerie and quiet bridge. The final refrain is a cool repetition of the bridge but with far more force, marching away until the title is screamed once again and the band is finally silenced. A fitting finale.
In ‘Our Science Is Golden’ the aggressiveness of the music is far more present than in their debut even though this time it doesn’t seem like it’s aimed at anything in particular but it simply lives within the track. An uneasy feeling is being perpetually built upon in this album, their debut had the odd song that would creep you out, but all of the tracks on ‘Our Silence Is Golden’ hold a sense of an unbalanced author. This is a complete step up in sonic quality as well as heaviness from the band, making it actually exhausting to listen to. This album has embraced the sound of other bands and you can really pick out the influences this time. Where ‘Black Junk’ was defining the band’s sound, this album is going “okay, we can play, but look; we can play as well as everyone else too”. The songs branch out and incorporate more elements than before and although the album seems a lot more focused production wise, the songs are a lot more complex and unnerving, like all bonds have been loosened.