Present Day Plague, the title of Detroit hardcore-thrashers SNAFU’s new full length, fittingly conjures to mind the bacterially infectious shredded punk that saturates its deceptively brief 19 tracks.
“Subhuman Scum” is the first of several segue tracks, moments when we can catch our breath before being dragged into the next pummelling track of concentrated vitriol. There’s a science fiction drone to these segue tracks, accentuated by distorted sampled dialogue. It’s the eerie sound we might hear in our heads as we cross into a quarantine zone, unaware of the fetid abominations we may by provoking. Rolling drums down in the mix hint at the true sound of SNAFU, undiluted by effects and studio wizardy, opting instead for bared wounds braving toxic nights. A build of shrieking feedback marks the quarantine breach and we’re immediately dropped into the all out flash thrash of “Her Dark Past”. From here Present Day Plague plunges like a roller coaster that peaks before you even know it’s moving, conserving all of your alertness for an ever-deepening fall. Yet, it’s not quite a musical free fall as SNAFU exhibit the utmost control amidst hyper-dense shredding, riffs that manage agility, tightness, and an almost tangible thickness, and vocals that sound so raw you can almost smell the iron in the blood.
The formidably regal riffs and plodding beat that open “A Trade to Abduct” offer an opportunity to wipe the sweat and blood from our eyes, but soon an avalanche of hardcore thrash buries us in shouts and fists, weighted with oppression and sonic brutality. “Snakes Eating Snakes” sounds a bit like (dare I say it) an ultraviolent take on surf rock in its brief opening moments, but the waters are teeming with frenzied sharks, all turbulence and razors. Eviscerating vocals jackknife into a finely sawing groove with intricate guitar expertly plucking at each raw nerve.
“The Great Deceiver” serves up a second segue track accentuated by foreboding doom guitars against samples of religious fearmongering before “Body of Suffering” brings the fray crashing in around us with SNAFU showing a hint of Tampa death metal at the tattered edges. Throughout Present Day Plague SNAFU as a cohesive unit evince a sense of recoiling horror, a gasping disgust at the repulsively pustulating social disease. Amidst the barrage of hardcore thrash and brief segues, this gagging abhorrence is perhaps best illustrated in the horrific shrieking guitars and aghast vocals of “Dead Before Dawn” which at times sounds reminiscent of classic Rudimentary Peni. The deluge of paralyzing dread gives way to a bluntly bludgeoning breakdown before rapidly rolling into a torrent of tightly torn violence. This feeling permeates all the way through the closing atmospheric doom of “Millions of Useless Eaters.”
A lot of SNAFU’s strengths come through the human element in the raw, ripped vocals that guide us through the diseased interior of Present Day Plague. The unity in the sporadic shouted choruses of naked vocals provides the perfect balance to the rotting guts and parasite-infested blood of the body of the record. Constantly shifting beat variations and grooves keep the album flowing without ever compromising its pure doomy thrash hardcore elements. When the human vocals blend with the horrific doom of the music, we hear the multi-dimensional truth of SNAFU’s work; a sincere rallying shriek in the face of despotism.