Though they’ve been battling each other and terrifying audiences for over two decades, Texas trio Rusted Shut has made a surprisingly small mark outside of their Houston hometown. Granted, that has as much to do with their genuine lack of productivity (three albums, one EP, and maybe a couple other scattered bits and pieces in 23 years) and the obvious difficulty in transporting such corrosive personalities and antics across state lines as it does the menacing nature and sheer unfriendliness of their gruesome, gnarled noise punk. And while the band would seem to be at home amongst similar purveyors of brutal dread rock, Dead, the group’s latest full-length, goes a ways towards proving these three will never be comfortable in any surroundings.
Their third LP overall (and first for the kindred spirits at Providence’s Load Records), Dead picks up the thread continued with last year’s excellent Hot Sex EP. As with most of the band’s material, these ten tracks were recorded over an extended period of time (1997 to 2008), and yet still manage to retain a pretty amazing sense of cohesion and consistency, so singular is their dedication to carefree manifestations of a certain playful misanthropy that much of their music exudes. Opening with the squalling, acrid blast of “Home,” the band quickly re-establishes the M.O. that has carried them thus far – mid-’80s hardcore brio shot through with a noise-o’s understanding (or lackthereof) of dynamics, all lovingly recorded on a tin can for maximum results.
Oddly enough, tracks like “Chemical Wor” and “Spaceships” sound much older than they really are, channeling vintage Bloodstains Across Texas material with drums sunken in the background and the guitars a tinny buzz that fights for space against Don Walsh’s grizzled snarl. More propulsive than anything Rusted Shut has ever done, they even manage to take the bludgeoning, simplistic riff and lyrics of a track like “Heart of Hell” and jam it straight into your skull in a way that’s not only painless, but also pleasurable as well. Ultimately, stuff like “Addiction” even flirts with the positively anthemic, with echoed vocals and needling guitars careening over a tight rhythm section.
Nowadays, Dead almost seems to blare comfortably in a landscape crowded with hardcore bros so thoroughly excited at the prospect of being lunkheads that words like “shocking” and “moronic” have lost all meaning. But without context and direction, attempts to incorporate Whitehouse antics or Brainbombs bluster come off as nothing more than impotent outbursts from those awkward kids at the back of the room. Make no mistake – Rusted Shut is hardly of a piece with any of these supposed contemporaries. Beyond distortion and low-quality recordings, these guys have little in common with anyone else. Dead effectively proves that Rusted Shut are true outliers, living in their own filth while everyone around them punches out after an eight-hour shift of simply looking the part.