Punk as a genre has seen countless quick and powerful bursts followed by unbearably long dwindles in mainstream mediocrity. Punk seems to thrive in bleak, industrial cities that are otherwise devoid of culture. Surprisingly, the brightest spot on the punk map of late is the burgeoning scene in Copenhagen, Denmark, a city known for its jazz, architecture and clean environment.
Early last year, the Copenhagen-based punk quartet Iceage released their debut LP New Brigade to nearly universal acclaim. In late March 2012, Iceage’s Escho Records labelmate Lower released an eight-and-a-half minute, four-song EP titled Walk On Heads. The EP, with an initial pressing of 300 copies, sold out within a week, and for good reason.
Each of the four songs is a crushing keeper, evoking both late ’70s European post punk and early ’80s bicoastal American hardcore punk. Opener “Craver” is the standout track. It begins with two simple drum rolls, a shrieking guitar and a surprisingly crisp bass line. Then a Molotov cocktail lands at your feet, “ignited by boredom.” Singer Adrian Toubro’s violent yet desperate “craving for oxygen” in the chorus combined with the heft of the feedback laden guitar is enough to collapse a lung. The pulsing drums of the breakdown and anti-solos sock you in the face like jabs at a speed bag. There isn’t a prescription inhaler on the market that could quell the choked anxiety of “Craver.”
What’s remarkable about Lower is that their sound, although familiar, feels less like a cheap reboot of punk’s past and more like falling in love all over again with your middle school girlfriend. It’s unlikely that you were able to pick up one of the 300 original pressings of Walk On Heads. Escho Records is currently taking pre-orders for the re-pressing. With an EP this strong, one can only hope for a fierce follow-up LP (and a stateside tour). Regardless, “Craver” proves that punk may have had a lengthy near-death experience, but it never died.