Holy shit, man.
How a rock band sounds so vicious, yet so calculated and razor-sharp precise on a record, never mind a debut LP, is beyond me. In short: the Pittsburgh band trvss (pronunciation, Webster?) has exceeded even lofty expectations with Absence, a 10-track corker it released on cassette and digital formats this summer, offering noise-rock and post-hardcore that, even if blared from the rooftop of the Cathedral of Learning, would still demand a greater audience. Like I said: holy holy holy fucking shit.
To single out a track here or a track there is a god-damned fool’s errand. Each song is a vitriolic but lovingly crafted tour-de-force, with amazing and blistering interplay between guitar, bass and drums – not to mention a throat-shredding, destroy-the-EQ punk delivery from its frontman. And who, you might ask, are these fine young players? Well, the band itself is shrouded in a bit of mystery, as its Bandcamp and Facebook pages pay little attention to members’ identities or their musical lineage. Suffice it to say, they sound experienced enough to know how to sharpen the blade and play this game surprisingly well but young enough to still be pissed off about it all.
And, man oh man, are they pissed off. Most songs don’t go much further than the two-minute mark but flash more acidity and venom than many Pittsburghers, even seasoned ones, could muster in a double-LP opus. Even when the band cranks down the intensity or the beats per minute, as on the dirgy first half of the deceptive restrained closer, “A Brief History of Disease: Past & Future,” the frontman wails Vesuvian – think David Yow, in his heady Jesus Lizard days, by way of an exploding pipe bomb between your teeth.
The bass sometimes takes a prominent rhythmic role, interesting interesting, but this is largely a guitar-driven effort in the punk tradition, and the guitarist does well with adding texture and real heat beyond the usual three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust attack. Think Elephant Rifle crossed with Bastro. Or, if you’re a loyal follower of all things Pittsburgh, the energy of Old Game coupled with the rhythmic jaggedness of Microwaves.
No matter how you slice it, Absence is a record with which you should not toy. Mark it, boys and girls, this is Pittsburgh record of the year territory.