Meat Wave, Kal Marks, Burner

Mon. Apr 24, 2023 at 8:00pm EDT
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Price: 15.00 CAD $
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Price: 15.00 CAD $
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Meat Wave, Kal Marks, Burner

Meat Wave - the Chicago punk band of Ryan Wizniak (drums), Joe Gac (bass) and Chris Sutter (vocals, guitar) will release their fourth album Malign Hex on October 14, 2022.

The 10-track record, which features ‘What Would You Like Me To Do’ as well as previously released singles ‘Ridiculous Car’ and ‘Honest Living’, was recorded by bassist Joe Gac in 2019 at the band’s rehearsal space and respective apartments. Following 2017’s The Incessant, Malign Hex is the band’s most cohesive, dynamic and ambitious work to date – “a culmination of what we’ve been doing for 11 years. We’ve been working towards this,” as Sutter deftly summarises. “Our sound in the beginning was consistently very driving,” recalls Gac. “Now, that characteristic is merely a tool we can reach for. I don’t think it completely defines what we’re doing.”

The band spent the last half of 2019 chipping away at the record, choosing to work on it slowly in spurts, as opposed to their last album The Incessant, which was recorded and mixed in just four days. If that feels like an odd move – to veer away from a formula that worked so successfully on The Incessant, which received near-unanimous critical acclaim on release and was dubbed “an album meant for breathless angst, fists in the air, spit in your hair” by The Guardian – it’s one that pays off dividends on Malign Hex: a set of songs that finds Meat Wave at both their most gentle and abrasive, creating urgent and vital punk music that’s unafraid to dial things back and experiment, ready and willing to take a breath amidst the mayhem. Suffice to say, it’s a record of contrasts and juxtapositions.

“We recorded [Malign Hex] the same way we always have— live in a room together,” says Wizniak. “But we allowed ourselves to embellish more and take more chances with extra instrumentation.” And while the band did indeed incorporate more synths, organs and walls of guitar, it provides only nuance and atmosphere, not distraction from what Meat Wave does best. “We moved further away from the principle that we need to recreate every element on the album live,” Gac adds. “There was no shame in adding extra overdubs and different sounds.”

The album’s lyrics centre around themes of lineage; where we come from, and where we’re going. Malign Hex explores a litany of subjects and circumstances – addiction, greed, unreliable memory, obedience – through a surrealist, collage-like lens.

“A malign hex is something that is pertinent only to you, that is handed down to you, or was raised in you through time: depression, addiction, greed, envy. Everyone wears a backpack full of hexes. It’s heavy and familial. And it’s yours,” Sutter offers. “The meaning of malign is evil or malignant in nature. So, the idea was picking apart what my hexes are. Ironically, being in this band and making this band my life for so long has proved to be one of the hexes, but it’s also tied to more systemic hexes. It’s the evil algorithm that is you.”

In keeping with the way these malign hexes can gestate over a lifetime, the album loosely follows a birth-to-death arc across its ten tracks. Where its incendiary opening one-two punch of ‘Disney’ and ‘Honest Living’ deal in the nascent realisations you make as you grow into a fully-formed person and the experiences that shape them – being a child, getting older, having to work, navigating through life, complaining – its second side is more reflective, if not world-weary then at the very least world-wise. The menacing surf guitar of ‘Waveless’ is struck through with millennial ennui – “partying is surfing in a waveless tide,” as Sutter puts it – while the tumultuous ‘10k’, which opens on Sutter declaring “it’s been 10,000 days since the hex,” might as well be the album’s title track. “The 10k is referring to being alive for 10,000 days [at the time of writing it]. I was 28 at the time, and still not really knowing anything. It’s about acknowledging the hex – a hex of insecurity or unknowing. It’s about how life is so simultaneously surprising and boring. How I know so much and yet so little. 10,000 days feels like both a long time and a short time.”

The album’s penultimate track, ‘Jim’s Teeth’, meanwhile, crushes together two different narratives – one involving a friend who thought they’d lost their false teeth in Sutter’s car one night, the other relating to another friend’s experience of a childhood exorcism – into a miniature epic that builds from a hypnotic opening section into a whirring haze of interlocking guitars, harking back to a lineage of great Chicagoan bands in the process. Somehow, Meat Wave pull off its divergent plotlines seamlessly. It’s something they do, on a larger scale, across the album, charting a series of hexes through the innocence of youth and the wisdom of age, through gentler grooves and bright explosions of sound.

For all its contrasts though, if there’s a throughline to Malign Hex, it’s that it’s ultimately a record about reflection and figuring yourself – and your hexes – out. “My Dad came to visit us when we were making this album, on the top floor of our rehearsal space in a really shitty warehouse,” Sutter explains. “Ironically, this record is tied to him because I am a product of him. He’s handed me down some of his hexes. And ultimately, he passed away in November of last year and never got to hear it. It’s very cosmic and deep to me, and I’m still figuring the record out as a result. So, after all that, I’m not sure what it’s even about yet.”

It’s an apt summation of the impermanence of life, of how the meanings of things shift but our hexes largely remain. Perhaps in another 10,000 days, Sutter may have the answers he’s looking for.


Kal Marks - In early 2020, the long-standing three-piece lineup of Kal Marks dissolved. This left Carl Shane, the band’s vocalist, guitarist, and de facto leader wondering if the Boston noise-rock institution he’d started nearly a decade prior would even continue. “Dylan Teggart (A Deer A Horse) reached out to me and asked if I wanted to play music. I knew he was a great drummer, and if anyone could play this kind of music it was him. It got me thinking that I could start a new version of the band. I had all these songs that I wrote for Kal Marks, and it seemed like it would be a waste if I didn’t use them.”Shane decided to push forward and reached out to Christina Puerto (Bethlehem Steel) to become Kal Marks’ second guitar player—a first for the long-running band. With John Russell joining on bass shortly thereafter, Kal Marks was ready to tread into unknown waters. The result is My Name Is Hell, the band’s fifth album out August 5th on Exploding In Sound Records.From the first notes of the album opener, “My Life Is A Freak Show,” there’s something distinctly different about this version of Kal Marks. While Shane still sounds like himself, he allows his voice to sit front and center without any adornments. His vocals appear more human and vulnerable, which matches the band’s new musical trajectory perfectly. Of course, Shane still kicks in screams that shake the speakers, but he sounds less like a monster and more like a person exorcising their demons.From track to track on My Name Is Hell, the lyrics tackle everything from losing friends, religion’s toxic touch, the crushing weight of debt, the monotony of the suburbs, and the disgusting nature of the human race. Much like he needed his band to be torn down to build this new version of it, Shane’s songs never give the sense that he’s wallowing in these subjects. Instead, he’s trying to make sense of them and find some peace throughout that journey. By plumbing the depths of his anger, frustration, and sadness, My Name Is Hell admits that we’re all a little scared, angry, and confused, but we’re still trying to navigate the world the best we can.

“A lot of the tragedy and destruction that I’m talking about isn’t happening directly to me, but it affects me,” says Shane. “Any anger I have has boiled over and faded anyway. There seems to be no point in being angry, because it’s not going to change anything. Anger makes a shitty situation worse. Nobody is coming back to life, and more loved ones will die. I have an emptiness that can never be filled but I’m coping with it.”

On tracks such as “Everybody Hertz” and “Ovation,” the addition of Puerto on guitar shows that Kal Marks is able to evoke new depths as her and Shane’s guitars build off one another, allowing them to serve as meaningful counterpoints and counterbalances to the subject matter of the songs. In tandem, Teggart and Russell build off the bass-heavy, propulsive sound the band is known for, but they expand upon the sonic palette, weaving in influences from krautrock, electronic and funk. These are big, weird, burly noise-rock songs, but the hooks feel more pronounced and accentuated. At its core, My Name Is Hell is a pop record.

My Name Is Hell sounds and feels like a fresh start for Kal Marks. After 10 years spent digging into the ugliness of the world, here you can feel the catharsis and commitment to moving forward baked into the music itself. In the face of death, Kal Marks chose to live, and My Name Is Hell is a document of every one of those moments along the way.


w/ Burner

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The Garrison 1197 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON M6J 1X3
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