Viet Cong showed great potential on their debut EP release last year, displaying an ear for catchy guitar hooks and the ability to create gloomy yet mysterious soundscapes. Their first full length offering has been unleashed just a few weeks into the new year, and instead of the lo-fi innocence that shrouded the loosely arranged songs of the ‘Cassette’ EP, we have this highly experimental, noise rock package.
This results in a much beefier sound, with guitars charged with solid-sounding distortion, airy synths and pounding drums. Pointless Experience develops from an erratic pulse into a powerful tune. The vocals are reverb-laden and Flegel deliver lines such as “If we’re lucky we’ll get old and die” with a brilliant energy but also a startling indifference. March Of Progress again features claustrophobic distortion, before opening up and creating breathing space during the outro.
It’s not all about the dense sonic delights that infest this album. Delicious riffs spill out of the most compact noise fests, and are all the more effective because of that. The chorus of Bunker Buster rises majestically from the distorted verse, and a sparkling riff spiralling from left to right lights up March Of Progress. Continental Shelf is the most conventional track, with an irresistible riff dancing on the edge of the mix while a powerful bassline anchors the tune. The backing vocals of the chorus brings to mind the haunting ooohs of the Pixies track Where Is My Mind but Continental Shelf channels its own unique vibe.
The epic Death creates a terrifyingly intense conclusion that rushes along at high speed before collapsing and building up again. Some of the ideas are perhaps repeated a few times too many, but it does generate a suitably apocalyptic atmosphere for such a starkly named track.
‘Viet Cong’ is a challenging and boundary-pushing album that stuffs in enough catchy guitar and vocal hooks to fall on the right side of listenable. The production in particular is brilliant, allowing the band’s sound to be both densely distorted yet loose and free. This is a fantastic album that pushes the limits of rock music without sacrificing the ability to craft engaging songs.