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The Ghost Is Clear Records

Words by Greg Walker

Yep, they’re called Whores – get past it or get bypassed by something especially incredible. Instantly snagging my attention with 2013’s Clean EP tracks I Am Not A Goal Oriented Person and I Am An Amateur At Everything, Whores quickly established a grimy sound with a working-class authenticity.

A perfect example can be found on 2016’s debut album Gold, the single I See You Are Also Wearing A Black T-Shirt is not unlike a firebrand Cosmic Psychos anthem, a name-check among a handful of obvious influences. Comparisons to The Melvins, Red Fang, and Helmet in particular have described Whores from their earliest releases, and those elements are evident within their material, worn shamelessly on their grimy sleeves. Despite this, new album War is decidedly unique and immense.

Just released last week, War is polished, revealing a progression not unlike the leap between Meantime and Betty era Helmet, the gritty unhinged approach of past material honed and more precise sounding than ever. This is very much on the rails and charging full steam ahead. Commercial is not a word I’d use to describe the sonic abrasiveness, but it is fresh compared to the underground grit of past outings, and fun in places in spite of the belligerent raucousness.

The bass heft and huge guitar buzz of Quitter’s Fight Song immediately set the scene: this whole effort is focused around a colossal production. The main riff’s driving attack makes for a plodding tension, but at the same time a discordant siren draws you in with a delivery that is beautiful in its ugliness. Frontman Christian Lembach is not so much a singer as a verbal assailant, a spitting cobra of a human who leaves you drenched in his venomous wordplay. 

Like the majority of War’s tracklisting, Hostage Therapy is based on a monster riff that initially reminded me of the main riff in Slayer’s Catatonic with a Whores flavour, but it comes into its own with each listen. Breaking down to a minimalistic guitar riff and drum beat for the verses to breathe, the inevitable punch kicks in with the raspy singalong chorus, and reveals that like this whole new batch Hostage Therapy is such a well-constructed song. They’re not all mammoth-riff driven stompers; Back When I Was A Savage utilises a punky bounce complete with infectious hand clapping, Hieronymus Bosch Was Right boasts an urgent bombast, and there’s more up-tempo mayhem with Death Of A Stuntman and Every Day Is Leg Day, but my attention is immediately snapped back by the authority of tunes like Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome casts an imposing shadow and is gargantuan, opening with a simple but hypnotic almost timepiece chug, accentuated by well-timed punches. Highlighted by the unexpected entanglement of roiling feedback, right when you want/need something melodic, anthemic, and uplifting to kick in, the discordant guitar screaming drags you into an ugly sonic yin yang. This closing track showcases Casey Maxwell‘s bass tone perfectly, in fact this whole album is a showcase of tone.

Imposter Syndrome’s arrangement reveals surprises as well as delicious, expectant turns. With such an incredible drive in the chorus being this song’s cherry on top, Imposter Syndrome became an immediate fave, a monumental track that begs to be turned up to 11, talk about saving the best for last! 

Make no mistake, despite the epic production this is a no-frills, no bells and whistles, no commercial accompaniment straightforward sludgy rock. Uncomfortable discordant flourishes filtered throughout do nothing to distract from the weighty guitar tone, and it should be mentioned drummer Douglas Barrett is dynamic throughout. A focused effort, it’s easy to get dazzled by the titanic riffs and hulking grooves; War stands as a testament to Whores’ skill and songwriting prowess.

As much as I loved the decidedly less polished state of previous recordings, Ryan Boesh‘s massively enveloping polished production on War is something I’ve been wanting from Whores for a long time. Helmet comparisons are understandable, but Helmet wishes they sounded this authentic and convincing in 2024.

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