EP review: Arid Wave – Dead Friends
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People like to believe that grunge is dead. People also like to believe in Bigfoot. It would be insulting to your intelligence to sit here, lie and say that the genre is the titanic force that it was 25 years ago, but, simultaneously, it is also impossible to write it off, especially when deceased when new, young bands like Arid Wave continue to inject life into heavy, angsty alt rock. Hailing from the similarly rough-around-the-edges locale of Southampton, UK, the power trio of vocalist/guitarist Ben Palmer, bassist Brogan Turner and drummer Will Palmer have been laying out dissonant, punk-fuelled tunes together for over four years; they have three EP’s to their name, including Black Duck, Mongrel: Redux (both 2016) and, the focus of today’s little excursion, the brand new Dead Friends, which saw the light of day on 31st July. The three-track mini-album opens up by placing its best foot forward, welcoming listeners with the heavily distorted guitar riff of its title track. Incorporating influences of sludge and stoner rock into Arid Wave’s forte, the song heralds the harshest vocals of the group’s career thus far. Singer Palmer yells out with riotous intent, his riffs as incendiary as his shouts, until an undeniably punk, abrasive, hook-filled chorus takes over. Raw and perpetuating a true DIY attitude, ‘Dead Friends’ sets the precedent for the rest of the EP to follow, in the form of ‘Tiger Lily’ and ‘Stay Inside’. ‘Tiger Lily’ continues very much in the vein of Dead Friends’ first track, feeling both raw and accessible, but also featuring more clean vocals. The metal-inspired riffing of its heavy bridge prove to be a giant highlight, leading into a solo with equal levels of energy. ‘Stay Inside’ rounds off the trifecta as a lengthy closer, providing five minutes of good ol’ hard rock, starting with a perfectly muddy bass riff. After the addition of percussion and the wail of a guitar courtesy of the Palmers, a full-blooded rock n’ roll intro takes full control, before being overridden by a more clean and tranquil verse. Yet, all this serves to achieve is to offset the crunching chorus, which returns to the precedent set by the first two tracks to be found on Dead Friends. This hard/soft dichotomy rules the rest of the final song, before yet another grungy guitar solo ensures that the all-out heaviness reigns supreme to close out the EP. In many respects, as one comes down from the brief yet violent high that was the Dead Friends mini-album, they will probably find that the disc is akin to riding an exceptionally quick rollercoaster: it’s not going to change your life through unpredictable experimentation or profound words. But it’s definitely going to toss you around for a short, powerful, exciting and addictive ride, after which you soon find yourself craving to return to. As a symbol of the Southampton rock underground, Dead Friends lives up to the town that spawned it by being rough, raw, DIY and just ever so slightly alarming. In the best way possible, of course. Dead Friends can be downloaded now from Arid Wave’s Bandcamp page.