Album Review: Shackles - 'Hatred’s Reservoir'

8 November 2020 | 11:53 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Overflowing with malice.

As a writer, lover, and all-encompassing consumer of music, it’s nice when artists find a way to succinctly summarise their musical output into a neat statement of purpose. Case in point, Byron Bay outfit Shackles (stylised as ‘SHACKLΣS’ for all the forum-dwellers out there) have this handy little bio sitting on their Bandcamp profile:

“Nearly 10 years exploring the dead space situated somewhere in the triad of Power-Violence, Grind, and Death Metal.”

You love to see it. What you see (read: hear) is what you ultimately get. No surprises: take it or leave it. Nothing but the expectation for a full-frontal assault on the eardrums, sitting somewhere on a Venn diagram of sonic hostility, anger, and violence. And in a time when the average listener is already spoilt for choice with musical selections of all shapes and sizes, I do really appreciate that Shackles aren’t at all fucking around here. Fuck spiders, this most certainty does not.

On their newest album, the ominously titled ‘Hatred’s Reservoir,’ Shackles have returned from their short-lived recording hiatus to gift us with another fast-paced, thirteen-track slab of brutal, metallic jams. Recorded by Liam Kriz, with mixing by Andy Nelson (Harms Way, Dead in the Dirt, Weekend Nachos), Shackles delve ever deeper into their animus for humankind, yielding a genuinely uncompromising vision of aversion and disgust.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Kicking off with the title track, the album very quickly shifts into gear. Within the first ten seconds, the listener is met with screeching feedback, a wall of crushing distorted riffage, pounding drums, and a savage vocal attack. So far, so good. The aptly titled ‘Ribcage Renovation’ hits the ground running too, with a song structure that switches between frantic blast beats and chugging leads against a D-beat rhythm section and a punctured, hardcore bark.

For much of the record, this cycle works its magic and grinds any hope of salvation into oblivion. Considering the entire record is done and dusted in just a shade over 22 minutes, Shackles appear all-too-happy to barrel on from one track into the next mercilessly. On shorter songs, like the fleeting ‘Soaking Scythes’ and ‘Make Way for Malevolence,’ the band do little more than excavate a single good idea from the sonic chaos (a pitched dive bomb here, a rumbling bass break there) and then scatter the rest of the track with a grinding conflagration of rubble and ruin.

Conversely, when they flesh out their composition skills, as on ‘The Discarded Sheath of Political Aims,’ the results feel closer to monolithic, approaching the texture and complexity of contemporaries like Cult Leader. Syncopated guitars help to build a sense of foreboding and dread. At the same time, the use of negative space and atmospherics allows the track to breathe, soaking in the miasmic misery of its own making. And yet, even this perceived addition of length is itself a mirage, as the back end of the track is essentially just a distorted vocal sample, combined with moody instrumental backing.

Truthfully, ‘Hatred’s Reservoir’ is at its best when the ferocity on display is matched with the familiar, however murky and murderous that may be. ‘Not As They Appear’ makes the most of death metal leads peppered in amongst the blast beats, while ‘Beneath The Mask’ immediately follows up with some of the catchiest headbang riffs on the record and a sludgy closing section. Album highlight ‘Propagandist’s Demise’ sports a drum build-up and breakdown section so heavy it feels like you’re circling the drain of a black hole. Familiar yet excellent stuff.

On their newest full-length, Shackles are comfortably doing what they do best: being loud, being aggressive, and taking absolutely no prisoners. While not revolutionary in terms of this extreme genre overlap, ‘Hatred’s Reservoir’ has more than enough value for established fans and curious newcomers interested in those dark, depressive destinations where pissed-off heavy music can violently thrust you into. 'Hatred's Reservoir' doesn't reinvent the wheel, it just caves your head in with it.

  1. Hatred’s Reservoir
  2. Ribcage Renovation
  3. Not As They Appear
  4. Beneath The Mask
  5. Propagandist’s Demise
  6. Left To Fester
  7. The Discarded Sheath of Political Aims
  8. Soaking Scythes
  9. Yoke of The Ideologue
  10. Idiot Automaton
  11. Make Way for Malevolence
  12. Collectivised Lobotomy
  13. In the Absence of...

‘Hatred’s Reservoir’ is available now through Resist Records. You can find the record here.