Shepherd / Death By Fungi – Split

Art - Full Booklet

Label: Inspirus Records

Though there are still those who will dismiss the genre as being conservative and regressive (musically, at least), hardcore is a broad church, with a great variety of sounds and styles to be found. Indian bands Shepherd and Death By Fungi are excellent examples of this, not just because their sounds avoid typical hardcore cliches and take in a wide range of influences, but also because both bands are, quite simply, really good. This split showcases the two delightfully heavy bands, and is a highly recommended half hour of bruising yet intelligent hardcore.

Shepherd take the first side. Their tracks on the split pick up from a similar place to where Black Flag left off when they split up in the 80’s, minus the jazz and spoken word sections. There’s a similar kind of sludgey heaviness to them as Black Flag dabbled with on My War, as well as more than a hint of bands like The Melvins. And like those bands, there’s as much catchiness to the songs as there is heaviness – tracks like ‘Home Comes Gnawing’, with its rocking riff and distinctive chorus, will stick around in your head long after the record has finished playing. There’s even points where Shepherd come close to stepping fully over in to sludge or stoner rock, as on ‘Weed Dealer’ – which sounds like the meeting point between Houdini era Melvins and Weedeater’s more direct moments – but there’s always a sense of energy and focus that keeps the band rooted in hardcore. Regardless of how you term it though, Shepherd’s half of the split is a heavy, catchy beast filled with great riffs and a lot of energy.

Death By Fungi are one of the most exciting hardcore bands I’ve come across in recent years, and their In Dearth Of EP was a varied, thrilling demonstration of a band filled with talent and passion. Their side of this split demonstrates that the achievements of that EP was no one-off, though here there’s a bit more of a sludgey, almost noise rock feel to many of the tracks. Songs such as the superbly titled ‘Edgelord Beatdown’ and ‘Buzzard Murderer’ come across as being halfway between Shai Hulud style technicality and the kind of brute force normally associated with Unsane; whilst ‘Dead Soil’ has the kind of slightly dissonant edge typically associated with Converge. The biggest surprise is closing track ‘I Was So Mad (That I Wrote A Letter Elucidating My Point Of View)’, with its slightly off-key sung vocals and bright melodies bringing to mind late 90’s/early 00’s indie-emo. It could be a disaster, but it’s done with just the right sense of humour to work (and I especially like the palm-muted section around the 1:30 mark).

Overall, this is an excellent split between two very exciting bands, who demonstrate just how varied hardcore can be, and that there’s still plenty of scope for experimenting with and expanding on its sound with great results.  It is available digitally via Bandcamp, and a cassette version is due to be released by Inspirus Records.

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