The Punk genre has always been renowned for calling out the corrupt excesses of our society. In the genre’s glory days during the late 70’s and 80’s groups like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Black Flag, Ramones and The Stooges were pioneers. The genre was characterized by political protest expressed in aggressive angry sentiments, the questioning of corporate authority and an organic, basic rock sonics. Over the decade's numerous bands has taken up the mantle of the punk ethos. Like other genres Punk splintered into various subgenres; some which stayed true to the original dogma and others that only utilized the more commercial aspects. All of this history informs the group Vile Assembly who is releasing their debut “Fattened by the Horrors of War” in May. The title alone certainly is in keeping with the legacy of classic Punk rock. The release utilizes that original ethos while it comments on the endless corruption that continues to exist today in all the strata of society. The album is a refreshing wake up call for those searching for truth in the compose heap of corporate and political malfeasance that is our world today. Vile Assembly has stated that the members created the band solely to be an ersatz whistleblower on an unjust society. So Adele and Sam Smith they are not.
Vile Assembly was formed in Liverpool, UK by the trio, Mark Wainwright, Mark Webb and Paul Mason who are longtime songwriters, musicians and producers. They decided to create the band following a fortuitous meeting between the lifelong friends in a NY café. They have co-owned a music studio for 20 years and decided it was time to start to make their own music. The band members have strong political convictions and felt with the events of the last few years, it was time to take a stand in the one way they know how with their musical skills. The trio decided to use the power of Punk stylings as the best accompaniment to the message they wanted to release. Paul Mason the band’s vocalist and songwriter wanted to gain a feeling for how bad things are for those down and out by lived rough for a month in Liverpool and again in San Diego, CA. What he experienced fuels much of the anger and disgust that is found in the lyrics of the release.
Fattened by the Horrors of War is a snapshot of the world we live in today. The subjects range from religion, homelessness, political/ corporate corruption and war. In many ways, it is like the Daily Worker put to music. That can sound off-putting on paper, who needs yet another political screed, but Vile Assembly presents their case alluringly with excellent sonics and no-nonsense forthrightness. You can sense very quickly there is an intensity that is fed by their true horror at what society has become. The first track Gone harkens to some of the best of punk rock influences and protest rock performers as disparate as Manic Street Preachers and Sleaford Mods. Mason’s vocal channels his inner Johnny Rotten with his in your face aggression; leaving the guilty with nowhere to look other than straight in the face of the evil they produce. The track certainly makes you stop and think. Some might say the theme is fed by over the top conspiracy theory paranoia, however even if the lyrics can be a bit hyperbole at times as the saying goes ”Just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you”. Gone certainly signals what is to come throughout the album with this opening track. Body Bags continues to drive home the point the band is trying to make. This selection underlines both the uselessness of war and the eternal war the “haves” are waging against the “have-nots” who look to keep the “little man” small. This is all presented over a stellar punk accompaniment that calls forth the halcyon days of the genre.
Other highlights on the release are Last Century Man which takes a nanosecond to figure out who is being referred to; it starts with “T”. The heavy buzzsaw guitar and throbbing fuzzy bass all support the snark of Mason’s vocal delivery as he presents a condemnation on the culture of personality, style over substance. Voltaire also displays that the trio can do sophisticated with this glitchy techno track. The theme plays off the ideas of Voltaire’s philosophies and a paraphrase of Winston Churchill’s quote “this will be our finest hour” turning it on its head. This song like so many on the release is acting as a Cassandra screaming on the bridge warning of our impending doom if things don’t change. This is “The don’t miss track” of the release. Selections like Suicide Feast and Jesus and Poverty again emphasize the inequalities that plague our society and how we are being offered any distraction, bread and circuses, not to call those in authority into account. Throughout the release the sound is crystalline sharp production of adrenalin filled punk with variations just at the right junctures.
The final selection, Gonna Make You Evil is a change up from the punk lashings offered throughout the album. The track marries a cool funk vibe with a Latin-influenced guitar (think Santana) making for an engaging vibe. The subject matter is the final tilde on the overarching themes of the release, that being the corrupt looking to bring the innocent down to their level so they look good, “I’m gonna make you evil before I’m good.” This is the final warning to listeners to stay ever vigilant against exploitation.
Vile Assembly with Fattened by the Horrors of War provides an important injection of social commentary into a world glazed over looking at their devices. Sonically they deliver a healthy dose of anarchic punk for those who like me can remember the glory days of Punk. Like Diogenes, they seem to be looking for an honest person and the truth. Converts to their cause can draw encouragement from the news that Vile Assembly’s effort is not a one-off as they are already writing for their next release. If you’re socially conscious and concerned about the welfare of our society; Vile Assembly’s Fattened by the Horrors of War demands your attention, whilst confirming what your conscience is already telling you is true.