Beneath California (Epitaph)
Retox don't need that much time to inflict an incredible amount of damage. Much like The Locust, Justin Pearson's previous band, hardcore stage-wreckers Retox make their mark by delivering blasts of aggression in highly compact packages. The band's second album, Beneath California, runs a concise 23 minutes, and the average track on the record is about a minute-and-a-half long. For most listeners, this might seem thin or slight, but you'd be surprised at how many twists, turns, throttles and thrills Retox can pack into 90 seconds.
From the moment that a squeal of feedback opens first track "Die in Your Own Cathedral," Beneath California drops a brick on the accelerator and then drives that fucker straight into oblivion. It's less an album than a relentless force of energy and destruction, and as dangerous as it might be to put oneself in its path, it's just as exciting to see what the band is capable of doing with a baseline intensity level of 11.
For a band that offers few moments of calm, Retox deliver a surprising amount of diversity on Beneath California. In all of 54 seconds, "Die in Your Own Cathedral" transitions between pile-driving power-violence and a strange, eerie permutation of The Twilight Zone theme's main riff, collapsing in another shriek of feedback and noise. And the effects-laden guitar work of "We Know Who's the Prick" finds guitarist Michael Crain injecting a touch of prog into the song's chugging hardcore assault.
Every now and again, some surf-rock riffs make their way into the mix, and the result is invariably awesome, whether it comes in the form of cool, dark grooves ("Death Will Change Your Life") or menacing doom punk ("Wooden Nickels"). And while there's no such thing as a slow song for Retox—or a Pearson vocal style other than seething bark—"Strong Wrong Opinion" drops the tempo a bit, which goes a long way with a band this gnarly.
Retox have shown a lot of growth in just a few short years, and Beneath California is their best recording yet. It might only be 23 minutes long, but none of those minutes is wasted.