The Wonderful and Frightening World of Double Negative is like a mangled eight-armed beast buried in the dust of a cartoon brawl. For 18 damning minutes, the disfigured leviathan sinks its claw into the jugular, pummeling ear drums with a maelstrom of unapologetic violence and chest-constricting noise. In 18 minutes, there's exactly one hopeful moment—when that feedback finally settles. Only then can you remember the taste of fresh air.
When its genre of hardcore punk is littered with counterfeit riffs, half-assed politics and would-be catharsis, the brazen Raleigh four-piece Double Negative is a monumental feat long in the making and long overdue: Its players are veterans of hardcore's purported early-to-mid-'80s heyday, but their sinuous execution relies as much on their ties to King Buzzo and a love of The Jesus Lizard as it does the tutelage of Ian MacKaye or Greg Ginn. These dudes—Justin Gray, Scott Williams, Brian Walsby and Kevin Collins—have paid their dues, whether that means putting up with Ryan Adams in Patty Duke Syndrome or going painfully overlooked in one of the Triangle's best rock groups ever, Erectus Monotone. They've arrived in a big way.
Things begin in a size-too-small coffin lined with Scott Williams' multilayered guitar shrills. Atonal and dismal is euphemistic. They soak the pine box until a stale, sordid air of Collins' agonizing screams enters. Undecipherable, contorted and acrid, Double Negatives meanders, looking for it and finding it, slight coherence igniting mammoth, skin-ripping hardcore a minute later. This is Double Negative: blistering downbeats and overblown bass rumbles, collisions with breakneck power chords, implausibly raucous noise solos, mangled howls. The way Collins snears the chorus of "Technically Disfigured"—"Now stop the clock, stop the clock/ You're tired of waking up from your only peace/ You wanna pay up, get cut up, get disfigured"—you just hope he's been attacked with a cattle prod. If that doesn't push the point, "We're all in the cellar/ But I'm looking at the rats"—repeated again and again—should.
Collins and guitarist Williams smear The Frightening World album in high-end cacophony: Pained and repugnant, they confederate in scalding, raising the dead of Void, Discharge and Die Kreuzen while listening to Unsane, Helmet and Killdozer. Drummer Walsby and bassist Gray are perfect foils for the band's other half. Walsby staggers the constant onslaught with rhythmically demanding blasts that aren't only rare to the hardcore genre but are rare with their precision altogether. He raises tracks like "Redshift," "Stop Growing" and "Pond and Prairie" with an insurmountable force. He's always joined by the permanent drive of Gray, his low-end growl the power behind the LP's relentless clamor.
Double Negative also harnesses the power of its North Carolina roots, showing certain signs of being avid Brewery goers back in the day. The members are unarguably fans of early Corrosion of Conformity, the most famous and well-respected group to emerge from the Triangle's early '80s hardcore scene. The thing is, The Wonderful and Frightening World of Double Negative may actually be better than any of those early C.O.C. records. Is that blasphemous? Maybe, but this is that good.