Review: “Breathing Through The Wound” by Splitknuckle

Fuelled by themes of Anger, Violence, Inner struggles, Hatred and Betrayal since they arrived on the scene in 2012, Essex Metallic Hardcore crew Splitknuckle have returned six years after their well received sophomore album “Innocence Bleeds” with a fresh sonic abrasion. Working with Ben Spence at Fuzzbrain Studios in Walthamstow, the five piece were encouraged to get creative and the result is “Breathing Through The Wound“, an exploration through Hardcore and Melodic Death Metal about dealing with what’s happened to you for better or worse. No strangers to heavier material, they laid down a cover of “Territory” by Sepultura for previous label The Coming Strife Records in 2020 as well as releasing a split EP with Settle For Nothing that same year…

…and that heavier sound shines through the black clouds almost immediately with a brutal scream from vocalist Joey Drake opening up “Fuck Your Whole Life” like cold knife through warm flesh. His brutal language over the bands over Christy O’Connor and Liam McCarthy’s more complex guitar work gives the band the edge over the wolf pack while he’s never afraid to mix in some shriller moments to spice things up a little. A fierce and fiery pace setter, this one is the kind of mosh pit starter every album needs and by the end brings those classic 90’s American Metallic Hardcore styled sounds we all know and love. Drake turns feral as “Gutter Thoughts” hits hard in the first verse, the technical riffage that follows masterfully done and once again showing that the band are more than the sum of their parts when they get together. In truth the caustic nature of some of the vocals masks some of the lyrical narrative, a tale of murderous thoughts towards someone who crossed the line ensuring that there is enough hatred to be a suspect. The first guest appearance on the album finds Leah Massey of Pest Control lending her throat to “We Share Blood (Not Love)” and Matt Bullis blasting his way out from behind the kit. After a brutal first half with Walls Of Jericho vibes that has Massey sounding like Candace Kucsulain, a Groove Metal bridge before an extended melodic fade is a nice touch, slowing things down and giving a little breathing space before the next burst of fiery intensity.

That comes with “Sharpening Teeth“, a sub three minute Molotov cocktail of a incendiary bomb blast that mixes things up vocally with Hardcore barks, death growls and an almost spoken word part each adding fuel to the fire. What Spence has done is help the band capture their live energy like lightening in a bottle to the point you’d have to question if they would be able to squeeze anymore out these, they’re that good. Andy Baz of Raiden goes toe to toe with Drake on “Nothing Left To Destroy” as the pair take out their enemies with the cathartic vent of vocal violence that depicts the acts of warfare. It’s the kind of vicious little ditty that you can see coming but still hits like a hammer, lines like “One foot in the trench, one in the grave, I guess I’ll sleep in the bed, the mess I made” as honest as they are brutal. Another cleverly thought out melodic fade with the sound of automatic weapon fire in the distance ensures that the title track “Breathing Through The Wound” can hit that much harder and so it does with Drake producing some hitherto unheard guttural lows that reach into the void of Slam territory. That is accompanied by a whirlwind of percussive battery and the bands usual groove laden razor sharp riffage to ensure that not only does it make its presence felt but it leaves a scar. Then comes the flood as “Gethsemane” flips the script entirely with a clean vocal serenade and Bluesy almost Crowbar inspired Sludge Metal before a final third that brings us back to the heavier side of the band. This one feels like an experiment, a brave and bold risk; however those while those aching clean vocals may not start as strongly as they could they get into the right place quickly enough to make this one a stone cold winner by the end.

Andy Baz of Raiden returns for “Essex Kings” a cut which brings those 90’s Crossover Death Thrash vibes with a slick solo before the punishment beating of the first verse, punchy gang chants of “SKC” a nice touch. A mosh pit friendly classic that feels like a Stampin’ Ground masterpiece, this is the kind of track about the love of a home town that bands don’t write anymore and that gives it an air of nostalgia to add to its good clean fun. The electric riffs keep flowing like a river that has burst its banks with “Stay Keeping Count” and underneath the sheer rage of the vocals, the lyrics read with rap flow while the percussive battery is nothing short of restless, relentless and ruthless. They say all good things must come to and end and this burnt offering does with a Special Move cover in “The Sickness” which has been beefed up to bring out the two steppers in the first half. The squeals and bends in the chunky riffage of the second is what makes this one, you just have to feel it because it stirs the soul. An album that raises the hairs on the back of the neck with its sheer energy while being front loaded with classic riffs and a certain nostalgic charm in the style and tones, this one is one to savour that you’ll come back to time and again… [8.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Fuck Your Whole Life
2. Gutter Thoughts
3. We Share Blood (Not Love) (ft. Leah Massey of Pest Control)
4. Sharpening Teeth
5. Nothing Left To Destroy (ft. Andy Baz of Raiden)
6. Breathing Through The Wound
7. Gethsemane
8. Essex Kings (ft. Andy Baz of Raiden)
9. Stay Keeping Count
10. The Sickness (Special Move cover)

Breathing Through The Wound” by Splitknuckle is out 12th January 2024 via Daze and Northern Unrest with pre-orders available over at bandcamp.

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