Arson Cult are a Saskatchewan trio, with their latest release Lay Waste to Past Erections put out in October. A fairly short release, clocking in right around the 25-minute mark, Lay Waste to Past Erections is six angry tunes sure to please fans of post-hardcore bands like Shellac or Drive Like Jehu. Full disclosure: these guys are some friends of mine (yes, SK is that small). And while I would love nothing more than to slap a 1/10 on this release, Lay Waste to Past Erections is an undeniably solid album.
Arson Cult kick things off with the song “Blisser.” The combination of the warbly rhythm section and guitarist Matt Gravlin’s frigid, almost Greg Ginn-esque tone makes for a weird atmosphere right off the bat. It’s not long, however, before the band hits you over the head with Aaron Scholz’s pummeling percussion and bassist Jason MacKinnon’s low, grunty vocals. A similar level of aggression is present in the next track, “Bad Samaritans.” The song has more of a metalcore feel to it, with a simple progression that doesn’t overstay its welcome. “Made to Take” is my favourite track on the album. With its dissonant guitars and oddball timing, the song packs a lot of twists and turns without any section ever feeling out of place.
I quite enjoyed Lay Waste to Past Erections, though I did find some issues with the album. The most petty of these issues is Arson Cult’s use of audio samples. I love David Lynch as much as the next hipster, but the minute-long Lost Highway sample that introduces closing track “Children of the Spring” seems like an afterthought and something that would play out better in a live setting than on a record. Speaking of the band in a live setting, (killer segue) some of the sparse passages on the album come across better in person. Specifically, the repetitive bass riff at the end of “Travelling on Someone Else’s Dime” doesn’t attain the uneasy, almost hypnotic feeling that I think the band was going for. And no, The Big Sick sample didn’t do anything for me, either.
Nitpicking aside, the band has a solid release under their belt. Aggressive and unorthodox, Arson Cult are deserving of at least 25 minutes of your time. If the holiday season has you approaching your breaking point, Lay Waste to Past Erections might be what gives you that final push.
Written by Justin Bruce
*edited by Kate Erickson