Album Review: PETBRICK – Liminal

[Neurot Recordings; 2022]

As PETBRICK, Wayne Adams and Iggor Cavalera create visceral slabs of noise interweaved with gloriously wonky electronica and metal. Think Aphex Twin hooking up with Old Man Gloom and you’re halfway to understanding what to expect on Liminal, the follow-up to the ridiculously feral debut album I from 2019. Where that record was a lo-fi noise fest of squalor and angst, PETBRICK’S second is a blissful exploration of a range of new aural spaces with the electronic beeps and splooshes turned up to the max (technical terms, them).

“Primer” begins with a sweeping bank of synths darting this way and that, like the cosmic-ness of Hawkwind but with a slightly more propulsive energy behind it. Cavalera joins the fray, a slow paced simple drum pattern adding a forward trajectory to proceedings before the track explodes into life with a machine gun style bass line that kicks the face off anything the band have done before. It’s a jittering mess of nervous energy and a squalling cacophony that sounds like a band really stretching themselves to explore the limits of their potential. It’s one of those tracks that defy categorization without bringing in about five or six genres and sub-genres into the discussion so let’s settle on the fact that it’s the most PETBRICK sounding song there is. The worry, naturally, is that the level of Liminal won’t/can’t be maintained across its eleven tracks. As you bounce through the next few tracks that feeling soon evaporates.

Arboria” and “Pigeon Kick” turn up the electronica to insane levels, with the latter diving head first into acid squelches and the demented drum programming of Go Plasticera Squarepusher to glorious effect. PETBRICK are in danger of being too metal for the rave kids and too ravey for the metalheads – but those with exceptional taste in music beyond borders will identify a precious band existing within and by their own rules and space (you know, kind of how the title suggests).

Shifts into other aural territories come on the maniacal “Lysergic Aura” which features vocal contributions from rappers Lord Goat and Truck Jewelz who battle valiantly against Wayne Adams’ constant desire to distort and mutate every element of the track, including the voices. It’s a hyper-kinetic track, a skittish beast that’s equal grace and angst. There are other collaborations on Liminal, including Converge’s Jacob Bannon on “Grind You Dull” and Steve Von Till of Neurosis on album closer “Reckoning”. Bannon is his usual acerbic and frantic self, with the vocal mantra of “Don’t like this world grind you dull” being delivered in his usual exasperated wide-eyed shamanic style. On an album of contrasts, the tracks that Bannon and Von Till appear on are the record’s extremes at either end of the emotional spectrum. Where “Grind You Dull” is a feral call to arms, “Reckoning” is a slow-burning elegiac and haunting vocal performance with droning ambience as accompaniment. This is where PETBRICK excel – just when you think you have them pegged and know what to expect they tear those assumptions from under you in devastating ways.

Elsewhere, Liminal essentially just sounds like two good friends making as much righteous noise as they can raise whilst thoroughly enjoying themselves in the process. The pulsing beats of “Ayanare infectious and as visceral as music can be, while “Distorted Peace” is cerebral and pensive. Paula Rebellato’s vocals on the latter vibrate in the same way that Genesis P-Orridge’s words do on Throbbing Gristle’s “Hamburger Lady”. It’s fair to say that there are a lot of ideas colliding to great effect on this record.

Overall, Liminal is a massive leap forward for PETBRICK and showcases their ability to carve a varied palette of sonic terror and disquiet. When they are in full flow they are an absolute joy to experience, and the ebbs and flows on this record elevate the highs while the quieter moments unnerve in a delightful way. This is a record for the open minded, for those who don’t care too much for genre rigidity and restrictive labels. Wonderful stuff.