Review: The Locust – Safety Second, Body Last

EPs can feel, by their nature, transitory — seven or eight songs or less, cobbled together in a studio between larger projects, recorded on the road or captured during the bleary-eyed leg of some far-flung international tour, compiled from trebly four-track demos or tagged with the only occasionally illuminating designation of “rarity” or “outtake.”

Then there’s The Locust and Safety Second, Body Last, the hyper-pressurized sonic eruption the San Diego quartet has released as the follow-up to 2003’s lauded Plague Soundscapes. The new disc, which has found an appropriate home at Mike Patton’s Ipecac, is technically an EP but boasts four bombastic, jagged-edged movements split into just as many sections, and quickly stakes its claims as a complicated landscape-portrait of razor’s-edge stops and starts, violently twisted time signatures, and blood-boiling rage. It runs, always a hair away from a breaking point, for 10 minutes, nine seconds. And it feels like anything but a passing glance.

Recorded on one coast and mastered on another, Safety Second, Body Last is arguably the sound of an American apocalypse. Drums pound away mercilessly, like bunker-busters and machine-gun fire unleashed inside an empty cavern, and distorted guitars and bass slash at listeners’ ears like so much Pollack action-paint hitting a color-strewn canvas. When you can make out the words Joey Karam and Justin Pearson bark and screech, often in give-and-take or in perfect time with the group’s thrust and thrash, the venom only becomes more palpable.

“Dear fools and barbarians / why don’t you ask yourself / if you can still recall the Alamo / in this botched blitzkrieg of drive-through culture and / sweaty cadaver-driven vessels!” they shout, until their throats are beyond raw, on the “Who’s Handling the Population Paste?” section of “Armless and Overactive.”

“So this set of truths will do / Reset button waiting / Bartering with self,” they scream in the first section of “One Decent Leg,” the words unleashed more as a piercing succession of furious syllables than coherent or plotted sentences. The record ends, bitterness not only fully intact but blistering under the heat, with “Skin off my back, your meal!”

Musically, The Locust is in top form on Safety Second, Body Last, and it’ll take a few listens (you won’t hesitate to loop it) before listeners may grasp the depth of the band’s oddly cohesive delivery: the way eruptions segue into momentarily subdued, keyboard-laced nightmare-scapes and angry, Surrealist lyrics are splintered between musical bridges, or, better yet, two shouting grindcore-inspired singers. Sure, the disc’s all of two songs and hardly runs long enough for you to drop in the record and sit down, but when was the last time you enjoyed music this scathing while sitting down? Besides, any band that can fit a full-length’s worth of rage and sentiment into a package this pressurized and this compressed shouldn’t be worrying about how to prolong the sting so you’re not hungry for more. – Delusions of Adequacy, Jan. 9, 2006

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