Thursday 14 January 2016

Cowards - Shooting Blanks & Pills


1. Hoarse From The Get Go
2. Last Card
3. Scarce
4. Vices & Hate
5. Arrogant, Unseen
6. Grand Failure

This was the first record to come from Parisians Cowards back in 2012. It was reissued in 2014 via Canadian label Secret Handshake Recordings. I didn't get the chance to review it the first time round but am getting the opportunity now. This is the record that set Cowards (and their infectious blend of hardcore, sludge and black metal) up for future records and Euro tours. I was lucky enough to see them in Leeds a couple of years back and they were excellent. Going backwards in a band's catalogue is a good as going forward!

The title of the opener to this record pretty much describes Cowards to a tea. Hoarse From The Get Go is a head-spinning collage of hardcore screams, off-kilter riffs and blackened noise. In fact it airs more towards black metal than later EP Hoarder did. One listener review on Bandcamp states that this is the standout track on the album and I can certainly see why they think that. Amongst gut-punching the listener, Cowards also present a subtler (but not softer) side with Last Card. It’s a longer and more experimental number that brims with menacing sludge and dark atmospherics. It reminds me of the slow caffeine release imparted by the black coffee I have in hand. That being said, they’ve still manage to make it catchy as hell, even with a repeating and hypnotic riff at it’s heart. Their music becomes even slower on Scarce, which is about as mournful as it gets really. The extended instrumental passage that underpins the haunting spoken word samples becomes all the more vivid as you get sucked in. The best place to experience this would be in a dark and sweaty room at a live show and not while sitting on your couch, but beggars can’t be choosers. Cowards hit back with a barrage of power on Vices & Hate. I guess being current and ex-members of some of France’s most extreme bands helps you achieve this. The wall of sound created by the combination of head-battering instruments and angry human emotions is as close as you’re gonna get to the end-time! Arrogant, Unseen are opposite terms and the song itself is also the opposite to closer Grand Failure, raging and urgent. Grand Failure is every bit the feedback ridden beast you wanted it to be. Bringing to mind UK sludge mainstays Moloch, it attacks with violent bass and lurching tempos. I have to admit I enjoy this side of the band greatly but knowing how bulging the sludge scene right now, the path Cowards went down with Hoarder and later Rise To Infamy makes a lot of sense. At least Secret Handshake’s reissue meant that this record could reach new ears. For that they must be applauded and Cowards lauded for allowing it to happen. 

Stream the album and pick up a CD here:-

I can't seem to find anywhere selling copies of the repress of Shooting Blanks & Pills, but you may be able to get some from distros etc.

Cowards Facebook -
Secret Handshake Recordings Facebook -

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