By Dan McQuade
By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
"I always called what Villains does 'Street Metal,' " declares the band's vocalist, who goes by the name Desecrator. "It's music made from prowling the fucking streets." Apt, that. Ostensibly New York City's least pretentious and most dangerous band, the Brooklyn quintet continues to embody egregious urban excess with its second full-length, Lifecode of Decadence. Penetration, confrontation, and sundry degradation remain chosen and championed themes as the band demonstrates substantially advanced songcraft matched by a shockingly violent intensity.
"We're a physical, animal, head-banging, rocking and rolling metal band," says guitarist Teeth. (Just roll with it.) "Now that everyone in the group is writing more developed and evolved songs, no two-word 'online catalog'–type description can suit us . . . [Our music] sounds like we sound: filthy, dirty, and as loud as possible. We don't feel the need to keep in step with whatever 'in sound' is happening. We're creating our own sound."
Offhand comparisons to German death thrashers Poison persist, however, unfairly painting the band into a corner. Villains now harness the same fleet-of-foot kinetic jams that quickly propelled Pleistocene-era Judas Priest and ZZ Top to jukebox stardom in sawdust-floor saloons nationwide. Their fidelity, too, is markedly improved, compared with the guerrilla recording style that typified their debut, Drenched in the Poisons. What the band hails as their "fuck you and rot" vibe happily remains.
"Our recordings have proven evolution exists: We're somewhere between the fish with tits and the squatting guy cupping his nuts," says drummer Witchwhipper, who also serves as the band's recording "engineer," having helmed its first seven-inch, Rampage & Ruin, before officially joining the ranks.
Desecrator's base and wholly engrossing lyrics combine a blue-collar sensibility with kitschy porn and cartoonish satanism. "On the Prowl" serves as a provocative and able baptism for Villains newcomers, with the singer growling such niceties as "On her morbid sexual carcass . . ." before Witchwhipper unleashes a percussive breakdown rivaling any fill AC/DC's Phil Rudd has produced. For those who never bought the Lester Bangs bit about the Clash being goddamned great because their lyrics were as tough as their music, here's the paradigm proven. Villains court the ornery and contemptible, a willing medium for ignobility conveyed by lyrics and music imbued with an ecstatic tension as violent as it is sexual. "Real events inspire all of it," Desecrator explains. "Primitive simplicity is perfection. Eat when you want. Fuck when you want. Grope when you want. Destroy the ego while you're at it!"
"The music's got to match the lyrics in feeling," adds Teeth. "The only band that drinks iced tea out of Jack Daniels bottles is the Clash. I ain't into white reggae, thank you."
"We know when things are working when one of us presents lyrics and the rest go, 'Yeah!' with the relief of hearing someone else say something mean we've always thought but never put into words," says bassist Nightstriker. "And the riffs are dirty . . . one of the aspirations of the riff is to compress the full potential mystery and majesty of music, harmony, melody, rhythm, and emotion into something instantly recognizable a man with a guitar can literally hold in his hand."
Lifecode finds rhythm section Nightstriker and Witchwhipper exploiting their affinity for roller-coaster composition, combining in ways Magma might've thought of if they'd shirked the sci-fi bullshit. Guitarists Killusion and Teeth provide a working counterpoint, faithfully heeding the tradition established by Venom and Hellhammer: Riff, riff, riff, with distasteful flourishes simultaneously recalling Judas Priest's Downing/Tipton tag team at their sleaziest, or Black Flag's Greg Ginn in the manic throes of shut-in nerd ennui. The fanged "On the Prowl" taps Slayer's Show No Mercy vein, while "Scumbag Preacher" boasts a lead-guitar line worthy of late-era Ornette Coleman, but readily dispenses with any harmelodic trapping, mashing melody into thrashed-out nothingness.
No single track smacks of perfection's tinkering, and all are better for it, repetitions carnal and demented as assorted choice lines ("Fuck friends/We need enemies") litter the mess, tactless, gleaming. Unwilling to kowtow to bogus trends or tired genre mandates—and immeasurably better for it—Villains maintain their course of self-destruction, trudging patch-eyed and skull-drunk down metal's shining new path.
Villains hold their record-release party at the Charleston May 30