Review: “Gaslights” by Utilitarian
You can call them what you want – Extreme Metal, Hardcore, D-Beat, Death Metal, Grindcore, Punk – but the politically and socially aware narrative that runs through the core of Sheffield trio Utilitarian remains undisputed. They don’t write nice songs about butterflies in the stomach when someone you have a crush on looks your way. They write songs about how the system is broken by a never ending cycle of lies, how people are discriminated against for no good reason and how things need to change. They rage against the machines – capitalism, discrimination, exploitation of the weak and innocent, greed and hatred. Joined in their scathing outbursts they find long time collaborator Andy Whale (Death Collector, ex-Memoriam, ex-Bolt Thrower, ex-Darkened) and OL Drake of Evile as they prove they have power in their corner. So will you join the fight alongside vocalist Jon Crowder, bassist Toby Gibbons and multi instrumentalist Amara Wears?
Shorter than a poison dwarf and faster than a speeding bullet opening cut “Break Their Teeth” is the punch in the face from the steel fist of Robocop that caught you off guard. 53 seconds of unadulterated Grindcore meets Hardcore Punk down a dark alley with a baseball bat that crosses Napalm Death and Discharge influences, it’s as violent as they come and a fine place to start a raging inferno. Slowing things down with a lethal dose of Crossover Thrash “Hateriarchy” finds OL Drake of Evile laying down a pair of incendiary solos as Crowder vents on the suppression of the female of the species and how they have been subservient to man for hundreds of years. There is no argument with his facts, he puts it all on the table for the listener to digest and one can only hope that the sugar coated riff wrapper it is placed in is enough to turn some heads and change some minds. Previously released single “Pride” keeps the ideas following with gang chants from Amara Wears, Toby Gibbons, Marc Hood, Natalie Waste and Richard “Gaylord” Weeks ensuring that Crowder isn’t the only voice being heard. As if the title didn’t give it away, this one opens the artery with a fist full of broken glass, a life affirming narrative which says its fine to be who you are and don’t let anyone stop you. The message is as blunt as it needs to be and rightly so, there is no point in walking on eggshells when things this important are spoken about. “Ethics” continues the cage rattling with a bass groove laden introduction that offers a little bit of respite before the whirlwind of Hardcore Punk rampages through the eardrums once more. An anthem which every politician should be forced to listen to until their ears bleed, his is one you need to hear for yourself.
The violence continues at breakneck speed with “They Fall“, another savage piece of aggression which oozes old school charm as the band offer up a slow breakdown and riffs which border on 80’s Thrash nostalgia. The profits rise as people die? Well… what did you think would happen when you sold them the weapons? You didn’t think they’d use them? Really? So what? They were ornaments? Alrighty then. The hits keep coming with “Profit Warning“, an anarchists anthem which is so scathingly honest it’s impossible to ignore. A stand out that throws politically correct rhetoric out of the window in favour of telling it like it is, listening to it is like a breath of fresh air. Title track “Gaslights” is where things get interesting sonically as Crowder finds a Gothic clean vocal that is reminiscent of Peter Steele of Type O Negative to counter balance his usual bark and that adds a little spice to the performance. “Look out your window, the world is on fire!” he screams and the funniest part of it is that no-one seems to be paying attention and politically they sound like they’re reading from the same playbook and xygrbryrx. “Idiot Legion” flips the script back to the bands more regulation approach, cutting through the urban jungle of zombified idiots with a broad sword in the process. It might not be as powerful an anthem as some of the earlier cuts but it certainly isn’t a soft centre at the bottom of the tub of Quality Street leftover from Christmas that no one wants to eat. For those not in the know “Maralinga” refers to the location where atomic bomb testing took place for the first time and has some suitably turbulent Hardcore Punk odd time signature grooves. The soundscape evolves into something akin to an exploitation movie at this point with “Gammon Fodder” following suit and offering a disturbing spoken word along the lines of Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror“. Bass grooves and Thrash violence throw back to 1984 as this one wears its heart on its sleeve and grows on you with multiple listens, Crowder giving us a Billy Milano like performance.
Crowder sounds like he’s going for Jello Biafra vibes with “Sugar Crash“, a cut chemically enhanced for the better with some British Pathé style moments that are darkly hilarious. Utilitarian are the kind of band that people like Max Cavalera rave about and its easy to see why. Stripped down the bare essentials and delivering a message like a brick through your front window, the honesty, grit and integrity here means that at times they’re an unstoppable force. A more groove orientated cut “The Weight“, is a suitably crushing riff fest about the weight of the world resting upon our shoulders with Andy Whale giving a stand out performance behind the kit. It’s long been agreed that the statement “Be A Man” or “Stiff upper lip” is utter nonsense and Crowder as uses that to his strengths lyrically getting to the heart of the matter in confrontational, defiant and incendiary fashion while Wears pulls out some of her finer riffs. Gibbons rumbling bass makes the tail end of the one an absolute thumper that you just want to raise a poison chalice to. As if that wasn’t enough to give you food for thought a reprised version of the title track completes the album, giving it a whole new meaning. Cinematic? Orchestration? Brass? Symphonic? You’ve never heard Utilitarian do anything like that before [8/10]
- Break Their Teeth
- Hateriarchy (ft. OL Drake of Evile)
- They Fall
- Profit Warning
- Gaslights (ft. Andy Whale of Death Collector, ex-Memoriam, ex-Bolt Thrower, ex-Darkened)
- Idiot Legion
- Gammon Fodder
- Sugar Crash
- The Weight (ft. Andy Whale of Death Collector, ex-Memoriam, ex-Bolt Thrower, ex-Darkened)
- Be A Man
- Gaslights (Reprise)
“Gaslights” by Utilitarian is out 7th April 2023 and available for pre-order over at bandcamp