New Zealand’s Bridge Burner are part of the blackened hardcore zenith that seems to be bubbling from the muck of the international underground a present. Whilst many use this as a tool to borrow aesthetics and surface-level ideas, with ‘Null Apostle’, Bridge Burner go one step deeper, putting the soup ladle aside and diving headfirst into the sludgy underbellies of the black metal and hardcore scenes alike, pulling something deliciously malevolent from the fold.
Sweeping with a dark ambient intro, plodding doom drums and overdriven palm muted bass begin The Blood Easily Follows. Snarling black metal rasp with a tinge of hardcore yells in there. Then, at the 1min 35 second mark, wailing feedback rings out into a very Entombed sounding Swedish buzzsaw dirge riff. Death roars from the very bowels of Hell follow the acidic caustic passageway through the rest of the song, chords as minor and tri-toned as the Devil himself could make them. Imagine Converge circa ‘Jane Doe’, albeit strung to the wall by nails and spikes, writhing in agony.
Frenetic riffs open The Blood Never Lies with a very d-beat crust punk verse riff, over absolutely venomous rasps and shrieks with intermittent blastbeats. Super dissonant chords that are fuzzed out to almost nothing suddenly echo in and out, a turgid mix between uncomfortably hollow and static-riddled tones. A super distorted bass riff gives a brief repose before an angular mathematical bit, a breakdown with forced spoken word shouts and rasps madly at us between barks. Sludgy, bleak and slightly off-time, the nauseating second half of this song queasily drips out of the speakers in a sickly muck.
Keelhauler trades off straight-up blasting with very Will Haven style plays off of atonal notes thrown in quickly here and there like shurikens. Death growls, pained hardcore shouts and black metal rasps weave in and out of the blast-laden buzzsaw mess, breaking cleanly into a hardcore punk section where both vocal styles marry up briefly. This punky little section gives the thundering cavalcade of drums that follow an even greater edge. Two short minutes but a lot happening here to feast your bedevilled ears upon.
Album single Witches Alone then cranks up the intensity another notch, a crash-heavy blast-beating intro with deep growls and rasps quickly clawing at the walls, keeping a consistently knife-sharp edge. Playing between short but punchy breakdowns, black metal tremolo aesthetic, blasts and punk snottiness, there Is a feeling of pure blackened malevolence here that even traditional occultist bands having trouble employing. This is dark, gritty, suburban decay, as exemplified by the persistent blasts, slow chords and roars that carry pained shouts and wails through the latter half of the song. A wall of feedback large enough to give your neighbours tinnitus even with your headphones on, and the tumultuous event is over.
Illness and Loathing is up next. A fairly lowkey, grooving intro is abruptly kicked in the teeth by pure savagery, a seething ball of snarling animals from both black metal, sludge, hardcore and noise biomes. The resulting abomination interplays between punchy and urgent chord progressions and a breakdown big enough to topple three square city blocks. The screams and pained wails of the caged victims call and response against furious harsh vocals in an almost classic thrash palm mute section, before winding back up the ladder of extremity and crashing to a sudden end.
Feedback, yet again, screams at your ears with the opening measures of Cultfathers. This album is best enjoyed with some open space, lest your ears screech afterward. A slow, thick arpeggio sits under blasting drums as black metal screeches and death growls play off of urgent shouts very reminiscent of early Poison the Well. A section that seems to churn endlessly lends itself to a drunken swagger between simple palm muting and tremolo, before being swept back into a black hurricane of riffs. The eye of the storm feels even more despondent, a subsonic progression with pained shouts and yells, giving the impression of drowning in black filth. That unmistakeably distorted bass playing under taunting drums, just waiting patiently as the
Howling Beneath The Earth – this track begins exactly as the title would have you think. Several slow, heavy notes traipse and echo above whispered rasps, with a simple shuffle and barely audible screams entering the door quietly behind. Feeling more like an introduction to a Cult of Luna album, this post-metal interlude breaks things up with just enough reprieve following the preceding nightmare. That post-metal feel is carried over into the final bell toll, the title track ‘Null Apostle’. An even slower crawl with heavy frets, clanging drums and black metal shrieks drags us kicking and screaming into the bands’ lair. Tortured shouts bounce effortlessly against growls and rasps, twisting and tearing slowly at the aural cavities. A very simple palm-muted section with echo-heavy screams sneaks upon us, a slow build of effects-laden leads and slowed tremolo trudges relentlessly towards a final painful screech of non-stop feedback for a good couple of minutes straight.
Blackened hardcore seems to be the new black, the new experimental direction for punk aficionados sick of the 4/4 beatdowns and deathcore ho-hum. New Zealand’s Bridge Burner are on the nasty undercurrent of this new wave, a leviathan of pure horror that truly takes the anxiety, evil and despair from the realm of black metal and injects it into a bastardised hardcore abomination.