Reviews Street Sects The Kicking Mule

Street Sects

The Kicking Mule

This deviant punk/industrial hybrid sprout onto the scene in 2014 with their EP Gentrification I: The Morning After the Night We Raped Death, introducing their aggressive, noisy and extravagant sound. However, it was their debut record End Position that saw them produce a succinct and complete offering presenting their full vision. Street Sects arrived with an intense and furious perspective, releasing an album that balanced between the punk brutality and the cold industrial perspective. But still, underneath this harsh exterior there appeared to be a distinct melodic element, which they now further explore with their second record The Kicking Mule.

In their sophomore full-length the duo makes a shift towards the more melodic side of their music, but that is not to say that their new record is not extreme or heavy. It still feels like they deliver a shovel to the back of your head. But, tracks like “Featherweight Hate” from the band’s debut record, which featured a more direct, melodic tendency take the lion’s share of The Kicking Mule. And what arrives with this switch is an overall change in perspective, with the band diving into more experimental areas, while at the same time carrying on with some of their trademark characteristics. The neo-noir aesthetic is still present, apparent in both the story-telling ability of the band, but also the cover of the record.

This noir influence fuels the atmospherics of Street Sects’ work infects the atmospherics of their record. The start of “269 Soulmates” displays an utterly disturbing ambiance as the sharp synths appear through the darkness. The use of samples further enhances the narrative of the record and adds to the noir feeling, binding a deeper ambiance to the work. But, it is not strictly the ambiance or the samples that bring this element to life. The start of “Dial Down The Neon” radiates with the same neo-noir quality, with the music itself contorting to create this elusive shape, as the retro guitars and the mysterious melodies construct this dark realm. 

Still, this narrative also feeds the energy of the band. The urgency with which Street Sects arrive is something unparalleled, being able to conjure this aggressive feeling through the various modes of the record. The tension is not isolated simply to the fast and in-your-face moments but it is spread through the record, infecting the atmospheric passages and the melodic aspects of the work. It is mainly the relentless rhythmic component that is the cause for this asphyxiating result, with the band managing to balance perfectly between the punk fury and the industrial precision. “Everyone’s at Home Eventually” is an example of this ability, as the relentless drums clear a path through the hooky guitars with its sinister repetition. 

The focus of the record however falls within the melodic structures that Street Sects first introduced in End Position. The guitar work is quite interesting in that respect as it moves seamlessly in the melodic/dissonant trajectory, as is the case with the final parts of “Birch Meadows, 1991”, which turn the bombastic, cacophonous sound to some excellent hooks. The synths follow a similar path, morphing through the different modes. An excellent instance of this modus operandi is the main theme of “Chasing the Vig” is presented as a disturbing John Carpenter-esque theme. But, it is mainly the vocals that drive this melodic energy across, and Ashline’s performance in The Kicking Mule can only be described as stellar. His versatility was apparent in End Position and it carries on the new record, being able to switch from growling his guts out to a more personal and intimate tone. The manner in which his delivery morphs through the album is astounding, producing an ominous message in “Suicide By Cop” and then diving to a more sorrowful area with “Dial Down The Neon” and in “Before It Was Worn.”

The Kicking Mule feels like a switch for Street Sects, but it still retains so much of the band’s identity. Listening back to End Position again it does not feel as much as the band has introduced new elements to their sound, but they are rather presenting a more obscure aspect of their identity. Tracks like “In For A World of Hurt” and “Still Between Lovers” see them reconfigure their vision and strike another fine balance between melody and extremity. It results in a record that is still hardcore, aggressive and relentless but at the same time presents great hooks, melodies and a soulful core. It is just a testament to the craftsmanship of this duo.

8.5 / 10Spyros Stasis
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8.5 / 10

8.5 / 10

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