Brutality is an odd descriptor in music. As subjective a term as any other, the difficulty in making music that genuinely threatens the listener is that such intensity is difficult to maintain, forever carrying with it the danger of leaving the bands’ dimension in the single digits. This is not the case for Auckland demons Bridge Burner, who have come to break bums with their new full-length Null Apostle.

Not to spoil the surprise, but if you walked in on The Secret and Primitive Man trying to summon the greater darkness of Loss, you’d be in the right aisle of the supermarket. With their previous EP Mantras Of Self-Loathing firmly in the rearview, Bridge Burner have ascended. Opening such a blast-y record with the creep of ‘The Blood Easily Follows’, the Kiwis have something dreadful in mind for the listener; this prophecy does indeed come true, though perhaps not in the way you were expecting.

Null Apostle pulses with a pure, dark energy; Bridge Burner are not here to ask you how you’re doing tonight. Glimpses of Ion Dissonance and Inside The Beehive jostle with straight up hardcore and more crust than mother Earth, and while this is definitely grind, there are unnerving off-the-gas moments where atmosphere and the tension of emptiness take priority over trying to atomise your skeleton. ‘Cultfathers’ manages to keep an almost stately carriage despite its punishing nature, but it’s the unsettling ‘Howling Beneath The Earth’ that sets the New Zealand quartet apart. Imbued with an old wisdom, it’s the sound of a band doing as they wish, never mind how it’s supposed to be.

Of course, most of this record follows the template set down by ‘The Blood Never Lies’; pillaging, harrowing HM-2 action with malicious thought given to how such a physical impact might affect the listener. That being said, the album-closing title track pushes the grind template into uncommon ground as it breaks the seven-minute barrier with some of the records’ most desperate, snaking vocals. There’s plenty of pit-scorching bone-breaking on tracks like ‘Witches Alone’ and the atonally-inclined ‘Keelhauler’, but repeated listens reveal a forward-thinking, utterly commanding album that answers to no-one but itself.

For Bridge Burner to have grown from ‘Open Hand/Iron Fist’ to this defiantly open offering in two short years is something to be celebrated. Taking true care with their songs has already led somewhere exciting, so buy this record and await the next one with baited everything.

Null Apostle is out May 31st on Art As Catharsis. Purchase here

Words: John Tron Davidson

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