Detroit’s punk/metal juggernaut Child Bite is back to melt faces and bend minds with their fifth full-length album, Blow Off The Omens. Recorded by Steve Albini (Nirvana, PJ Harvey, The Jesus Lizard) and mixed by Collin Dupuis (Tomahawk, The Black Keys, St. Vincent), the band follows up 2016’s Negative Noise with an album that retains the bands eccentric qualities, but packages it up in a sinewy, frenzied collection of songs that are among the most focused and deliberate of their career. Indeed, the half-hour of music delivered on Blow Off The Omens nine songs has all the intensity the band is known for, but it’s channeled into a tightly wound reflection of the bands vision.
Vocalist Shawn Knight opens the album by asking, “Is this real life?” The question is rhetorical. The band knows that this life is bizarre, unforgiving, and all too real. Which is exactly the sound of the album itself. Album opener “Mock Ecstasy,” “Stimulus Gorge,” and “Become an Animal” sound like Black Flag at their most inspired and strange. Forged by anger and unrelenting in nature, these are songs for a street fight. Which is only to say that the sobering feeling of getting punched in the face is an obvious emotional equivalent.
Bassist Sean Clancy and drummer Shane Hochstettler propel the songs forward with tireless fury. Whether it’s the thick as a brick bass lines of “They All Look Away” and “Disposable Hysteria” or the relentless battering of drums throughout, it’s clear that this rhythm section galvanizes the band as a whole. Their solid work also allows Jeremy Waun to layer his off-kilter guitar playing over their madness. “Persistence Award” and “The Wrong Ones Breed” are perfect examples of his manic, sometimes screeching, and disjointed finger work. Sneaking into the Child Bite family, avant-metal musician Bruce Lamont (Corrections House, Yakuza, Brain Tentacles) adds some demented saxophone playing to both “The Wrong Ones Breed” and “Disposable Hysteria.” It would be amazing if he would tour with band, even if to play on only these two tracks. Sometimes his sax is subtly layered in the mix, but when it comes out it is a seamless and provocative addition to the songs.
Of course, Knight puts all this into words sung by a howling, unhinged lunatic. Whether he’s singing about “social leprosy” on “They All Look Away” or our “god-given right in this godforsaken wasteland” on “The Wrong Ones Breed,” Knight clearly has some things to get off his chest. There’s no fucking love songs on this album. You’re more likely to have your heart strings tugged by lines like “No wonder our brains drip out of our well-serviced holes” (“Stimulus Gorge”). Where many artists are using our current political milieu to force-feed political opinions down their listeners throats, Knight only offers social commentary. Granted, his view of our current climate may suggest his politics, but this isn’t a political album. That would be like saying A Clockwork Orange is about disenfranchised youth.
It’s become too rare these days that the closing track stands out among the best songs. Many albums are front-loaded and sound like the band lost steam as the recording progressed. But, the title track is sure to become a live staple. Featuring a guitar solo by Voivod’s Dan Mongrain, the song is peak Child Bite – weird, powerful, and pissed-off.
Blow Off The Omens is Child Bite at their finest. If you’ve followed their career from the fringes, this is the album that will make you a full-blown fan of the band.
– J. Kevin Lynch