The question is: Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?
As I am addicted to quoting record company press releases, it will come as no surprise that I am going to indulge myself once more in this review. On this occasion however, my raison d'Ítre is not lethargy, a miniscule deadline or a thinly-veiled ploy to augment my word count. This time, the reason is incredulousness. The opening line of the accompanying blurb in regard to a 4-track disk from metallic hardcore rockers Sanzen struck me as particularly odd:'Before you press play, you're going to need a change of underwear, "This Is Gun City" after all.'
What does this mean? Are the record company seriously warning me that exposure to 'This Is Gun City' will force my rectum into prolapse? What could possibly cause such an abhorrent deed to occur? Is the record undeniably petrifying - and if so, in what context? Does it concern itself with unnerving social comment that will chill my bones by way of an unswerving relevance to my own pitiful existence? Or does 'This Is Gun City' weave terrible tales of gothic and/or supernatural horror that will scare me to such an extent that I will find it impossible to negotiate the five metre saunter to my bathroom, and will instead fill my trousers with the nauseating vestiges of last night's vindaloo? Or, (and I think this is what is implied) is this record so good that it will cause me to lose control of my bodily functions? It is of no matter. I suggest we forge a path through this forest of zealousness and ambiguity and instead concentrate on the music for a moment. That is, after all, why you are reading this review in the first place. And then later, perhaps, I shall let you know if I was forced to scrape my underwear clean after listening to it.
Sanzen are a five-piece from the UK and, in Ben Kumar and Scott Briggs, feature two former members of My War in their line-up. Sanzen have supported Funeral For A Friend, Bullet For My Valentine and in recent times Pitchshifter. Sanzen, (as they purport) play "guitar swinging, rock 'n' roll good time music". Sanzen must be comprised of extremely depressed individuals. Please do not misinterpret me; I am not intending to launch a vitriolic assault on the band. But to describe the record as "guitar swinging, rock 'n' roll good time music" is akin to ascribing the following depiction to The Sex Pistols: "brisk-paced, good time guitar pop, imbibed with a small dose of political and social commentary".
Breakneck speed, torrential riffing, thunderous drums and ear-piercing vocals are the hallmarks of Sanzen's sound. The opener, 'I'll Be Leaving' sounds like the bastard child of Biohazard (riffs) and Iron Maiden (melodies), albeit raised by Max Cavalera, Burton C. Bell and Henry Rollins. Jon Eley's voice is bizarrely reminiscent of Rodney Henderson of Violent Delight - though he is obviously far more enraged. 'Modus Operandi' is as equally ferocious with a fantastic mid-section break and Eley exhibits more depth in his snarling vocals. Guitarists Rob Upton (who I believe goes by the moniker 'Doom') and the aforementioned Kumar also prove their considerable axe-wielding skills beyond doubt. 'Escaping The South' and 'I Knew This Day Would Come All My Life' follow the established tone admirably but this lack of differentiation grates a little in the mind. It is obvious that the members of Sanzen have a deep understanding of hardcore, metal and post-punk aesthetics (and certainly they are not afraid to show it on record) but even after only four tracks it is difficult to remember any idiosyncratic inclusions that may have been made. However, a major plus is the superior production and crisp mix which captures Sanzen's crushing sound perfectly.
Sanzen may not make 'good time music' but that is not to say that a good time cannot be had by spending a mere sixteen minutes listening to 'This Is Gun City'. It is an impressive debut but there's a sense that Sanzen need to bring something new to the party if they are to ascend to the top of the hardcore pile. A work in progress perhaps...?
P.S. In case you couldn't guess, I was not forced to shake my underwear over the toilet bowl before throwing it in the machine. My apologies go to Sanzen who must be apoplectic - though they must understand that they are dealing with someone who truly believes that 'Amelie' is the scariest movie ever made. I mean come on...she is a nutbar.