Album: The Nature of Being New
Who among us hasn’t wished for a fresh start? Even those otherwise happy with their situation have days where, maybe, just for an hour, day or week, you wish you were someone else. Or maybe you’re among the perpetually discontent, waking every day hoping to find yourself in the shoes of someone else. Someone richer, prettier, taller, someone who has better teeth…
The point is that very few of us are content with the hand we’ve been dealt, and the ones who are aren’t content for very long before they find themselves in want once more. And for all you who desire that feeling of a new life—a fresh start, free from the burdens you’ve buried yourself beneath—Buffalo-based chaotic three-piece Bungler are the band for you. With their live performance alone being an eye-opening experience many equate with a spiritual rebirth, their Innerstrength Records debut record, The Nature of Being New, captures that and distillate it into twelve tracks that are truthfully unlike anything else hardcore—alternative or otherwise—has seen to date. The Nature of Being New is energetic, spastic, carefully-crafted yet carelessly crushing, showcasing the tremendous talent of this New York trio whose sound defies simple genre limitations.
I suppose it might make sense to try and liken Bungler’s sound to what they seem closest to, stylistically—as difficult as that is. Imagine Every Time I Die’s Last Night in Town got in a fist fight with Every Time I Die’s Ex-Lives, leaving a pool of blood, sweat and spit inches deep on the floor. Then, along came the melodic touches of Great American Ghost and the gloomy-but-catchy nature of Old Wounds: both slip and fal, coating themselves in Every Time I Die’s bloody aftermath.
Maybe we’re getting close that way.
In all honesty, while Bungler may draw influence from all of the above, their sound is wholly their own. Percussionist Sky Harding hardly slows down throughout the entirety of The Nature of Being New, and when he does, it’s only for atmosphere or unholy aggression—with prime examples being the closing seconds of “Feed Him Gravel” or the spazzy “Smooth Hysteria” (whose name is somewhat of a misnomer). With Bungler existing as a three-piece, Harding has a lot of space to fill, but his percussive expertise and seemingly unlimited energy enables him to do so with ease. From the first seconds of the album’s opening number, through “Double Glare” and its two-steppy entirety and “Drowning in Oil,” Harding is a veritable force to be reckoned with—especially when his belligerent patterns and mile-per-minute candor line up with the efforts of guitarist (and studio bassist) Ryan Ankenbauer. Ankenbauer’s grisly, downtuned riffs sound like something a metal head-turned-mountain man might think up—with ever-so-slightly southern-dusted segments that slide and jive into sharp, shreddy periods and moments of murderous, soul-rotting heaviness both. Once more, the listener’s attention is turned to “Smooth Hysteria,” and the witty “In God We Trustfund,” both of which see Ankenbauer annihilating any notion of subtlety. Through lengthier and more languishing, heavy tracks like “Feed Him Gravel” and “Rotting Fruit (Is for the Birds),” Ankenbauer maintains his attitude in a slightly different form; adding variety in the form of gloomier grooves that segue into sparse seconds of scathing speed—putting Harding through his paces to boot.
With a sprawling and stellar hyper-dissonant and devastating musical soundscape created by but two men, it would be practically criminal for Bungler to spoil it with a sub-par vocal element. Enter frontman Greg Kolb–who knows this and definitely doesn’t disappoint. With a live performance that is simply second to none and a presence that even manages to expand to his sound on record, Kolb’s talent when it comes to capturing raw, ravenous and ravaging entropy with his vocal cords and spewing it at the listener simply cannot be denied. From “Finders-Keepers, Takers-Leavers” and “Ex Wheels” through guest appearances by Adaliah’s Jorge Sotomayor on “Smooth Hysteria” and a dynamic performance to conclude “Feed Him Gravel,” Kolb’s vocal talents are absurd. With a shrill voice that soars into attitude-soaked pitched singing and gruff, mid-range yells, Kolb is a driving, energetic force applied constantly throughout The Nature of Being New, never slacking when it comes to energy or endurance, always sounding at the very top of his game—as true live as it is in the studio.
This is normally the part where I say something like “as good as Bungler are, they might not be for everybody,” but in reality, they do appeal to fans of just about any style of aggressive music. With a solid foundation of chaotic hardcore spiced up with groovier, contemporary and metallic portions as well as some searing southern heat, The Nature of Being New is dynamic and diverse, heavy and melodic, bold, yet (rarely) tactful. Their first true full length record, Bungler show the music community they have what it takes not just to craft a full-length record, but to keep the listener engaged for its duration, roaming from ruthless heaviness to peerless, poignant and passionate energy without skipping a beat.
For Fans Of: Every Time I Die, Until We Are Ghosts, Great American Ghost, Old Wounds
By: Connor Welsh