Since their first full-length release back in 1993, Propagandhi were known for their straight-up thrash punk sound. However, in recent years, it seems that they’re slowly moving away from formulaic punk structures and taking an entirely more progressive approach as demonstrated most brilliantly in their latest effort, ‘Failed States’.
The record opens to a 5 minute 56 second arrangement of delicate textures and ethereal layers with heavy guitar delay. The track slowly opens up to reveal itself; far from the usual breaking straight into full punk. Once the vocals begin, Propagandhi‘s full identity shines through. As political as ever, they don’t compromise on controversial commentary, even if the music is slightly more subdued than normal. The track is beautifully written, the musicianship exceptional. This just shows their experience in songwriting and how you can be just as hard-hitting without the need for constant, blasting music.
Even on short, intense tracks such as the title-track ‘Failed States’, it’s a far cry away from what we’d expect from a political punk band. Pushing into the progressive realm, the riffs and structure are technically far more complex. Subtle bass runs throughout add another dimension of detail. With that said, there’s still a huge chorus consisting of clean vocals to hook the audience in, a problem that many prog bands face but Propagandhi have effortlessly overcome.
The exploration into other genres is extended even further in ‘Rattan Cane’, the superior track of the record. An intro that would be more at home on a Slayer record throws the audience off instantly before bursting into a thrash metal verse. The vocal style is very different here too taking a gruffer, unclean approach. But again, masters at their art, they include a clean vocal chorus drawing the audience in. This theme of thrash metal combined with punk continues through the record, proving it’s no novelty or gimmick: for punks, they shred hard.
26 years into their career, Propagandhi are still as fresh and current as ever. Such diversity in sound without compromising the quality of the record is a hard skill to master, and they’ve certainly done it. Completely enthralling, ‘Failed States’ leaves you eagerly waiting to see what is lurking around the corner and never disappoints. There are so many twists and turns through the whole record that all bases are covered. Whether you’re into prog, metal or punk, this record will satisfy everyone. Never claiming to be a Propagandhi fan, this record has fully converted me and I urge you to give it a listen because, frankly, it’s mind-blowing.
Written by Jack Bastard