Being stuck in the middle of a nightmarish piece of human history can seem utterly defeating. Where Marx might see the moving parts of a dialectic, the seeds of revolt and social change being sown in the rotten ground of inequality, it’s much easier to see 2017 as the tail end of Ouroboros disappearing back down the snake’s throat. History as a constant cycle of learning nothing and changing nothing.
You might forgive hardened veterans in Sect for taking one look at the existential nightmare of the last year and a half and retreating to the comforts of home and a regular income. An assortment of alumni from Earth Crisis, Catharsis and Cursed, Sect’s members are people that have more than paid their dues in political hardcore over the last 20 years. It’s down to sheer grit and the still burning fires of outrage that they’ve returned in 2017, with one of the most vital albums of the year.
Opening with minute-long salvo ‘Open Grave’, No Cure for Death is a reminder of the transformative power of heavy music played with rage and precision. Clocking in at an economical 17 minutes, Sect’s second album is a lesson in not dancing around and throwing jabs when a punch to the throat will do. It’s a distillation of the band’s heritage in their previous acts, but with 21st century nods to the kind of HM2 hardcore championed by the soon-to-be-dearly-departed Trap Them. Tracks like ‘Liberal Arts’ and ‘Day for Night’ are distinctly crusty re-readings of Entombed’s death and roll, while ‘Transaction’ comes across like His Hero Is Gone playing Dismember riffs.
There are classic hardcore chops here as well, ‘Day for Night’ lurches into a circle pit-worthy breakdown at its midpoint and ‘Stripes’ recalls the ghost of Cursed at their swaggering peak. ‘Born Razed’ and ‘Least Resistance’ incorporate coruscating grind and powerviolence that could easily go toe to toe with Nails, while ‘Reality’s Wake’ and ‘Avoidance Ritual’ prove that, like Cursed, Sect are just as devastating when they slow the tempo down and allow room for some brutish melody to break up their skull crushing violence.
Although Sect spend 20 minutes kicking your metaphorical teeth down your metaphorical throat on No Cure For Death, they also bring urgent, incisive lyricism to the table. Any band containing Chris Colohan already has an MVP in their ranks, the guy who brought a tortured, poetic political conscience to Cursed and then brought a tortured, poetic romantic conscience to Burning Love.
Colohan has always been adept at pointing out how the monolithic forces of nationalism and capitalism crush and co-opt the working class little guy and No Cure For Death sees him applying his talents with the urgency of an end-time preacher and the brute concision of James Ellroy and Jim Thompson. In ‘Stripes’, Colohan rails against a US prison complex set up to replace the captive slave labour of African Americans with the free labour of criminalised blacks, spitting ‘profiled and finger-printed / re-routed back to the cage’ in a paroxysm of disgust, then summing up 300 years of injustice in 8 words: ‘can you see the stars / through the iron bars?’
No Cure For Death is an indictment of a North American political system that crushes the weak for profit and of a people who have apparently learned nothing about the cancers of injustice. When Colohan sings “the truth is nothing but a corpse full of vultures” it’s not too hard to work out who he’s referring to in this post-truth universe, ditto ‘genuflect to power / they’re lining up to cower / ..at the master’s feet / swallow yesterday’s unthinkable’.
If Sect’s first album was a group of seasoned prize fighters shaking off ring-rustiness, No Cure For Death is a gang of hardcore punk veterans, fighting fit and ready to take brass knuckles to the resurgent evils of Trumps America. This is negative music, but it’s not nihilistic. Sect point out in the clearest terms what’s fucked up, what needs sorting out and inject the listener with the fire and energy to want to do something about it. Like another band with an ‘s’ and and ‘e’ in their name, the experienced head in Sect capture some of Siege’s youthful naiveté and vitriol – the belief that if you keep throwing yourself at the wall then one day it might all come crashing down.
No Cure For Death is out now on Southern Lord. Pick up a copy here.
Words: Andrew Day