The Ultraviolents

The Ultraviolents

Jun 4, 2008 at 4:00 am

If a line exists between speed-punk and thrash-metal (and I'm guessing that line, however thin, does exist), local quartet the Ultraviolents joyfully falls off either side of the tightrope on its self-titled album. The standard guitar-bass-drums set-up is augmented by Mabel Suen's tenor saxophone, which twists and turns amid a rhythmic, distorted maelstrom. The inclusion of the saxophone calls to mind early-'80s no-wave à la James White & the Blacks, though the Ultraviolents relies less on art-damaged weirdness than it does growling fury. The sax is a notoriously hard instrument to incorporate into non-Springsteen-indebted rock & roll, and Suen is most successful when she uses her horn to add honking resonance to guitar squalls or to establish something approaching a melody line (though melody and harmony are not exactly key elements of the Ultraviolents' sound). "Trouble Kill Zombie" starts out as a black wave of thrashing guitars and cymbals while the saxophone offers vaguely Middle Eastern-sounding trills.

Singer and guitarist Russell Morrissey opts for a guttural howl on most of these ten songs, which makes deciphering the lyrics a nearly superhuman task. No great loss — here, the lyrics seem like arbitrary vessels of venom sung from the gut, the words themselves chosen for their sound rather than their meaning. Suen jumps in with guileless, shouted vocals from time to time, and her counterpoint on "Dynamite Cop" helps leaven the relentlessly heavy tone of the album. Likewise, the next track, "Murder By Mutants," adds a bit of psycho-punk and surf-rock, and the shared vocals and breakneck drumming make it a standout. It's a shame that the Ultraviolents couldn't interject a bit more variety into these tracks; the band members seem adept at dropping in punk-encoded nuggets, and those nuances would add some contours to an album that lacks definition.

Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o The Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130. E-mail [email protected] for more information.