No Warning – ‘Torture Culture’

By Glen Bushell

The story of No Warning is one that has been told many times, and depending on who you talk to, you will get a different take on what they think happened to the band. Their 2002 debut, ‘Ill Blood’ is the album that defined a generation and influenced more bands than any other hardcore record released in the ‘00s, and ‘Suffer, Survive’ will always be the divisive follow up that most people considered a sell-out move. Whatever your take is on the band , when they made their return after nearly 10 years at Ieperfest in 2014, it was one of the most anticipated reunions in recent memory, and No Warning proved they were well and truly back.

Now that predictable introduction to this review is out of the way, we can move on with the matter at hand. Thankfully, the past is not something that needs too much discussion when talking about the Canadian hardcore bands third album, ‘Torture Culture’, because for the most part, this is a case of out with the old and in with the new. Of course, there will always be some comparison to their older material as it is their first LP in 13 years, but this somehow sounds like No Warning without sounding almost anything like their previous two albums.

The most notable thing about ‘Torture Culture’ from the outset is that No Warning still sound pissed off. After being a member of Terror since their dissolution, Jordan Posner is now a seasoned guitar veteran, and the buzz saw riffs traded between both him and Matt Delong during ‘Headless’ go straight for the jugular. Much of the interest will be on what Ben Cook is doing vocally this time, and he spits bile with the utmost intensity. Even the higher register, melodic lines that creep in hit the right spot.

The lead single from the album, ‘In The City’, was the perfect choice to showcase the record and the message they want to convey. It is an album of anthems from the street, with a raw and dirty vibe that makes you feel the grit and concrete beneath your feet. ‘Beyond The Law’ has all the groove of classic ‘90s New York hardcore, whereas ‘Like A Rebel’ calls to mind the crossover appeal of Leeway and Cro Mags. There’s no crystal clear production of over-use of studio trickery, save for a few vocal effects, and it has a warm analog feel with a live recording sound to capture No Warning in their real, uncompromising form.

Of course, being a No Warning record, it is not a down the middle, clear-cut hardcore record, which is where the only comparison to their previous output can be made. Cook flexes his vocal muscles in a number of ways, often accompanied by reverb and distortion of added power. The ‘clean’ passages are used sparingly during to break up the shredding ‘Unreality’, and the hardcore punk crunch of the title track. It will surely be ‘Sanctuary’ that turns the most heads, though, as the band pays homage to Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots with a grunge-filled dirge and classic rock stomp. It still fits within the context of ‘Torture Culture’, and offers a reprieve from the unrelenting force of the record.

While ‘Torture Culture’ perhaps won’t lead to No Warning influencing and breaking the same ground they did the first time, they don’t really need to do that now. They just proved they can still write hard, aggressive music, and showed every No Warning copycat band of the past 15 years how it’s really done.

GLEN BUSHELL

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