I’ve worn glasses since I was 10 years old. For a full 3/4 of my life, I’ve been afraid of losing or damaging those glasses in any way. Not only am I unable to see very well without them, but I lived in fear of breaking them because I didn’t have the money to purchase a new pair.
The result was that, for all of the punk, metal, emo, and hardcore I listened to in my teens and 20’s, I didn’t like getting anywhere close to the pit when attending a live show. And that really bummed me out at times. Sure, I could have handed my glasses to someone in order to jump into the pit, but I also found losing my vision in such a maelstrom to be very disorienting.
Ultimately, I felt like I was missing out on a crucial element of that entire scene. A large chunk of the atmosphere at such shows is fueled by all that collective energy on display as the crowd enjoyed the music. But I just couldn’t out myself where my glasses could be potentially harmed – no matter how great the music.
Maybe things would have been different had I experienced the pummeling fury of Oozing Wound in a live setting.
Since 2013, this Chicago trio has mixed together doom, sludge, metal, and crust punk to create a furious and churning brand of modern hardcore. Released by Thrill Jockey, High Anxiety marks the band’s 4th release, and it’s a taut, powerful, and driving affair that could compel even the most fearful wallflower into the middle of the floor.
This 7-song album marked my first introduction to the band’s music. From the get-go, I was awestruck at how these three gentlemen wove together sonic influences like High on Fire, Sleep, Earth, and Zao while carving out their own unique identity.
Zack Weil is a force of nature on guitar and vocals, as he eschews both dirty distortion in his guitar tone and comical “Cookie Monster” delivery with his lyrics. To these ears, he opts for sturdy overdrive to power his sound, which gives his solos a defined tone wherein you can actually hear the notes he plays.
This crisp guitar attack pairs well with the relentless rhythm section attack of bassist Kevin Cribbin and drummer Kyle Reynolds. Much like Weil, Cribbin forgoes the muddy lower end often associated with this genre, preferring straight-ahead strength in his bass work over artifice and expectation.
The drumming of Reynolds kicks things up another notch. You won’t hear any cheesy blast beats or triggered kick drums employed to ramp up the “heaviness” of the music. Instead, he actually knows how to play the drums in a variety of rock styles and does so with expert ease, regardless of tempo, time signature, or timbre.
For all of those accolades, High Anxiety reaches its apex with its arrangements.
This is no cliched amalgamation of double-time verses, regular-time choruses, and slow-burning breakdowns before speeding right back up into the verses. The strong and purposeful tempo shifts in songs like “Surrounded by Fucking Idiots” and “Birth of a Flat Earther” showcase three superb musicians who know how to develop a balanced sonic attack and deliver it with power and passion.
Led by standout tracks like “Filth Chisel” and “Tween Shitbag,” Oozing Wound puts on a master class in shifting time signatures to create depth, contrast, and texture. Each shift in each song provides meaning and purpose to the greater whole – without coming across music created by pompous, pretentious pissants.
High Anxiety is hardcore for grownups, especially in its nuanced approach to chugging, thrashing, and getting the crowd whipped into a circle. There’s nothing cheeky, anxiety, or whimsical about any of these seven songs. In fact, the lyrics are quite cynical and nigh onto nihilistic in nature, and as an aging member of Generation X, I resonate with such sentiments.
While 20-something Adam might have wanted to make his way into the pit to enjoy such music, almost 40-year-old Adam raises his fist in solidarity with the layered songwriting and impressive musicianship of Oozing Wound.
Despite all of the cliches you might have heard about the place, Adam P. Newton actually enjoys living in Texas – most of the time. He currently creates and curates content for a marketing agency, and in his limited free time, he writes a memoir about his journey through music called “Explaining Grownup Music to Kids.”