If you’ve been keeping up with Jay Randall’s output with Grindcore Karaoke over the last year, then you would have become quite familiar with the name Wadge. In fact the Hawaiian themed grindcore behemoth has become something of a flagship for Randall’s digital label, being the first band to have a release on GK back in January 2011. It seems quite fitting then that, a little over a year since the label’s conception, the 200th release benchmark goes to Wadge and their new record ‘Total Volcano Exploding’.
What has always been impressive about Wadge is their fearless ability to blend such a variety of music and culture, the likes of which most people wouldn’t associate together, and come out with something that sounds both compatible and completely unique. Their GK Debut ‘Grincore Lu’au’ threw down the gauntlet in the truest fashion, a 23 track blast of a record that fused together elements of surf rock, crust punk and grindcore, set to an epilepsy inducing rhythm section. The release of the EP ‘Tiki Gods, No Masters’ in February this year, also saw Wadge in familiarly abrasive spirits. So does ‘Total Volcano Exploding’ raise the bar set by its predecessors? The answer is, yes.
The familiar surf rock tones that have become synonymous with Wadge’s name herald the arrival of album opener ‘Bora Bora’, the kind of song that wouldn’t sound all that out of place on a Dick Dale record, (you know if he was pumped full of steroids). With breakneck guitar picking and a double bass kick that goes someway to sounding like a caffeine fiend’s heart palpitations, this fifty second instrumental eases you into previously charted territory. The sinister droning of ‘Spazztic Hens Come Home to Roost’ heralds the arrival of Wadge’s tropical storm and it’s not long before the familiar assault on our ears is underway.
However there are a few noticeable differences that soon become apparent upon the first listen to ‘Total Volcano Exploding’. The first is that the grainy distortion that characterised both the instruments and the vocals of Wadge’s first GK release, has been given a bit of spit and polish, (possibly due to the inclusion of Randall’s Agoraphobic Nosebleed band mate Scott Hull handling production duties) and whilst it certainly sounds a little more produced, this in no way detracts from the overall intensity of ‘Total Volcano Exploding’. But then again this record is less about trying to blow you away via a hurricane of noise, more like an album that produces a multitude of earthquake tremors, eruptions and tsunamis; in short the attack is varied, methodical and evolved.
‘Total Volcano Exploding’ demonstrates Wadge’s ability to develop their sound without losing track of what they represent by enhancing the quirky elements of musicality that briefly flittered in the maelstrom of ‘Grindcore Lu’au’. Tracks like ‘Sloth on the Beach’ with it’s falsetto vocal introduction and driving guitar, coupled with the title track’s almost straight up rock and roll sound make this record a little more three dimensional than it’s predecessor and the closest Wadge could possibly get to being ‘catchy’. Lyrically there are still the frequent moments of comic oddity that made the bands previous work so enjoyable (see ‘GL’s title track and it’s ingenious lyric “Off the plane in Hawai’i, with a cardboard cut-out of Shane Embury” for a point of reference.) ‘Total Volcano Exploding’ doesn’t change the formula much here, (mentioning another stalwart of grindcore, namely the Agoraphobic Nosebleed front- man, in a similarly humorous fashion, during the song ‘Randall’s Reef’) but the fact remains that this lack of taking themselves seriously, is one of the beauties of this band and is definitely something to be cherished.
If I could sum up this album in a simple phrase it would be “Angry fun with a pacific twist”; whilst there is room for improvement on the formula here, ‘Total Volcano Exploding’ is a record that shows a deal of diversity and an amount of accessibility, without becoming saturated. With an impressive few releases under their belt, Wadge could soon become a band getting a lot of attention.