When it comes to hardcore and punk, even some of the more straightforward sounding bands often have nuances that help to separate them from the pack. Over the decades numerous regional sounds emerged, and the newer generation of groups has had the benefit of being able to absorb all of them and fuse them together in interesting ways. Milwaukee’s Big Laugh falls into this category, as their debut full-length Consume Me hits hard and fast but varies up the riffs in ways that keep things interesting. Some of the dips into melodic and metallic territory do feel like they could be more fleshed out in the future, but this release builds naturally upon their prior material and is sure to keep listeners coming back after they shake off the whiplash.
Coming in at nineteen minutes, Consume Me is straightforward in its attempts to hit hard and deliver a mix of fast and mid-tempo riffs, but Big Laugh is able to shake things up enough from one song to the next that many of them really begin to establish their own identity. What’s enjoyable about a band like this is that they’re really pulling all sorts of hardcore and punk influences from across the United States, Europe, and even Japan, so depending on which bands and scenes people focused on in the past, they may be reminded of completely different ones. Considering how some newer groups in the genre tend to emulate specific albums or sounds, that works to Big Laugh’s advantage and they cram quite a bit of diversity into songs that rarely make it past the two minute mark. Sometimes the material is built for speed, doing everything it can to leave behind a trail of destruction with a sheer wall of noise and aggression, while other moments provide brief period of respites. This is reflected in the tonality as well, as certain songs let some more feedback and noise break through while others adopt a slightly more metallic sheen that gives off slight hints of early metallic hardcore. One of the most surprising moments comes courtesy of “The Fall”, where the opening melody channels something closer to post hardcore or some of the other lighter variants of punk before moving back to the aggressive riffing. These stylistic flourishes stand out because they shake things up, but they also feel slightly underdeveloped and suggest that even with the current amount of variety that Big Laugh still has more up their sleeve that hasn’t yet been revealed.
The vocals remain razor sharp for the entirety of Consume Me, and Big Laugh’s singer Drew seems to only get more intense as the tempos pick up. His style reminds me of a number of classic bands from both genres, as it’s somewhere between a scream and a yell but delivered in a way that makes it easy to make out the lyrics. I appreciate that the album’s production balances out the vocals and instrumentals perfectly, making it so that the vocals are powerful and in your face without overpowering the rest of the band. There’s also some variety to the performance that fits the dips into melodic territory, as at times Drew lightens up slightly and touches upon some other sides of punk. This is one of those albums where what you hear on record is probably pretty close to what you’ll get live, and that makes it even more appealing.
I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of Consume Me the last few weeks, throwing it on to get a quick and aggressive blast of hardcore punk in between other albums. It pulls from a lot of different variants of these two genres and has the riffs to stand out, but it also feels like Big Laugh is just getting started when it comes to some of the metallic and melodic elements. They don’t need to pull a Turnstile and radically shift, but if they can foster some of these additional diverse elements I think they’ll have a true classic. This album does come pretty close to that level of greatness though, and that’s a great spot for a newer band like this to be at on their third release. Consume Me is available from Revelation Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg