Destruction Unit are here for one thing only: they want to make your ears bleed. The Arizona desert-dwelling noise connoisseurs have been knocking around in one form or another for over a decade now (starting off, somewhat improbably, as frontman Ryan Rousseau’s solo synth-punk outfit; the late Jay Reatard turned up in one early incarnation), hopping from genre to genre, label to label. But at last Rousseau seems to have settled on his line-up – and his sound.
This is the second album D-Unit have put out this year, following February’s Void, their only release for Jolly Dream. Deep Trip sees the band move to everyone’s favourite record label for gloomy oddballs, Sacred Bones, though seeing as they’re pretty nomadic when it comes to labels it’s hard to predict whether they’ve finally found a permanent home there or not. The initial impression you get is that a lot of Deep Trip is more punk, even thrash, than Void – think Exterminate off the latter album, but harsher, faster, more visceral. It’s like Dead Kennedys recorded in a wind tunnel; a really pissed-off Hüsker Dü playing a gig under an international flight path.
Opening track The World On Drugs blasts the record into action with a noise like a suspension bridge collapsing in on itself, metal grinding on metal and steel wires ringing out before a white-hot thrasher riff kicks in. Fast and slow tempos are cut together as though an overenthusiastic GCSE Media Studies student is at the controls – and then, of course, there’s the itchy blanket of fuzz that everything’s rolled up in, constricting the song’s flailing limbs just enough to stop it all falling apart.
Slow Death Sounds compounds its predecessor’s ruckus and turns it up to even more hardcore extremes, Rousseau droning his way down the scale and dragging the guitars with him into a black hole of metal noise – and then out again onto a driving, psych-swirling plateau that segues into the album’s lead single, the unsettling, slower-paced Bumpy Road. Delicately creepy buzzsaw guitar patterns echo through the space previously blocked in by the hardcore punk chords, gradually gathering in strength until everything is drowning in waves of flangey noise. Follow-up God Trip jerks you out of Bumpy Road’s nightmarish soundscape, a two-minute distorted punk blast in which Rousseau’s kooky David Bowie-meets-Jello Biafra vocals struggle against a tide of fuzz and cymbal splash.
They’re all outstanding, these first four tracks, recognizably Destruction Unit but stretched out to extremes, taut and brittle and dangerous. By the album’s rough halfway point, though, around Final Flight, the sheer unrelenting noisiness of Deep Trip does start to wear a little thin. The original adrenaline rush dissipates as your ears adjust to the atonal brutality of the sound – and it doesn’t help that the final four tracks of the album are a little tamer than the first four, a little less interesting to listen to despite their trippy psychedelic flourishes.
There’s nothing on Deep Trip that quite matches the cheeky riffage of Void’s Evil Man, or the ominous, Hüsker Dü-esque energy of that record’s standout song Great Wall; its songs are less about hammering a certain riff or chord-sequence into your head, more about making a noise that’s immersive and transportive, forcing you to give yourself up to its ferocity. The mixture of mournfulness, savagery, lo-fi spirit and noise should appeal to psych fans and college rockers, metalheads and hardcore punks alike. If you’ve been bored comatose by, for example, the Swim Deep record, Deep Trip will somewhat ironically have you up and about in no time.