Nope not Bret Michaels and chums*, but a full-on 1990 metallic hardcore punk savaging from Portland’s finest, Poison Idea Feel The Darkness. When I first stumbled across them in Kerrang! I thought they were a bit novelty act-ish, hardcore punk played by a band two, or three members of which must have been tipping the scales at 24 stone and performed all manner of fire-breathing on stage; boy I was wrong. This was as real as it gets and I love it. You’ve also got to love the fact that this LP was the follow-up to possibly the best-named album in my whole collection, Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes.
This is just a brilliantly jagged angry album. Feel The Darkness is an exhilarating vinyl grenade of unremitting negativity right from the off. Well almost right from the off, ‘Plastic Bomb’ in fact opens with some rather nice piano courtesy of bassist Mondo, before hitting a more melodic groove than anything else here – I’m particularly taken with the ‘whoa-oh, whoa-ohs’; I genuinely can’t think of many songs that wouldn’t be improved by adding some to it. I love the half-spoken vocals,
The lie is so real, I almost believe it
Conceit flows like sewage
How could you conceive it?
Shake my hand, look me in the eye
Smile and think of ways I’ll die
Second track ‘Deep Sleep’ is far more representative of the goodies on display here, hardcore as hell but with a really precise metallic edge to it. Seriously, this could swing with Slayer, way heavier than D.R.I who pioneered this type of crossover – although Poison Idea had been kicking about since 1980 in various forms. It is that real precision and execution that still marks the increasingly blurred lines between hardcore punk and metal in my view, metal’s emphasis on virtuosity. The Slayer Hippy** is an incredibly good drummer, all the band are tight but he really stands out. None more so on ‘The Badge’ a track that Pantera covered live and recently released on 7″ for RSD2014. You can really see why, there’s all the usual punkers righteous anger being vented against cops, over some absolutely raging riffage – a venom fest of biblical proportions. Spoiler Alert: Poison Idea = not terribly keen on law-enforcement agents.
‘Just To Get Away’ is a straight up thrash metal tale of the visceral pleasures of quitting your job, giving the middle finger to your boss and hitting the road with a bloodstream loaded with amphetamine and your 16 year-old girlfriend; change it down a gear and you could hear Metallica covering it. ‘Gone For Good’ is an environmental rant delivered at a ferocious pace, the fastest and most hardcore song on Feel The Darkness.
One of my all-time favourite things about the whole LP is on the lyric sheet, instead of setting out the words for ‘Death Of An Idiot Blues’ they just write:
they weren’t bluffing either! My best transcription, until we get to the talkie bit (Talkie Bit !!) is ‘Nyuahh nuhhh nyaaa – wourrgh, worrg, rarrr!!’. Then Aldine Strychnine and Pig Champion just alternate peeling off some fabulous thrash guitar solos. Again, another of my favourite things – lyric sheets which list which guitarist did which solo, gotta love that.
You get the picture by now? Poison Idea are here to bludgeon you into submission with their hardcore muscle and sheer technical chops – Pig Champion’s solo on ‘Taken By Surprise’ is the equal to anything I can think of on any of the classic thrash metal albums. Difficult writing this and not wanting to use the heavy metaphor, because this is heavy music, hurtling towards you at terminal velocity ready to squash you like the insignificant wretch you are. But I don’t want to and that’s because it’s a bit of a lazy way of writing about a band with several very large members, I remember a Kerrang! interview where Jerry A said that he had to sleep with a tube in his throat to stop it closing up and killing him while he slept, due to his weight (its dimly remembered, so I may have got it a bit wrong). Sadly Pig Champion (real name Tom Roberts) passed away in 2006 – whilst researching this I stumbled across a piece from the NY times, a very timely and sensitive tribute to the man.
Elsewhere on Feel The Darkness we have shouty bits about surveillance and Crucible-style whistleblowing, organised religion^ and alcoholism. Last track ‘Feel The darkness’ is genius though, borne along on a bouncing rhythm track, Jerry A puts in a sterling shift on vocals on a song that was I understand about an acquaintance of the band who got murdered horribly. Poison Idea play it right too, using the situation to power their anger and frustration, rather than just using it as an unpleasant horror show. You really can feel it.
I stole the idea from the NY Times piece I mentioned above but these days Poison Idea’s influence is much more readily found in the world of metal, than in punk. As well as Pantera, Machine Head cover ‘Alan’s On Fire’ from this album live quite often. This is not an album for any of you floating voters out there, this is off-puttingly loud cocktail of violence and unremitting riffs, but for any of you who are serious about really liking the hard stuff then you should hear this, because chances are you’ve heard its influence already.
*I’m being all butch and hardcore here, I’ve hidden my much played Poison records behind the sofa tonight.
**possibly not his given name? if it is then I will unreservedly apologise to his parents Doreen and Norman Slayer Hippy, right here right now.
^I can see the headline, ‘Punk Band in not religious shock!’.