Cowards – Shooting Blanks and Pills (2012)

CowardsShooting Blanks and Pills (Throatruiner Records, 30 June 2012)


Good afternoon, readers. How are you on this fine Wednesday? I’m glad that I’ll be leaving work shortly, but I’m also dreading walking outside into the terrible heatwave we’ve been experiencing this week. But I’d rather not think about that — right now I’ll just sit here and enjoy the air conditioning and listen to something especially nasty and dark and angry. At the moment, I’m listening to one of my favorite hardcore records I’ve heard in a long time, which just happened to be released two years ago this week.

The album came out through Throatruiner Records, a label I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a lot of respect for, and that I’ve also discovered some incredible underground bands from — most of which are European and many of which play in a dark-toned style of hardcore that I’ve really come to appreciate.

Parisian quintet Cowards is no exception, I found when I downloaded their debut album Shooting Blanks and Pills (for free, as per usual for this record label). As I listen to it now, perhaps for the fiftieth or hundredth time, it occurs to me that I’ve never written about this band or this album before, which is really a shame because more people should get the chance to enjoy this piece of fine art. So here we are.




Nearly thirty seconds of ambient tones set up an vibe of bleakness before suddenly giving way to opening track “Hoarse from the Get Go” — a title which (along with the name of the Throatruiner label) very adequately describes the nonstop screaming vocal delivery of this style of music. This song in particular features occasional furiously-picked guitar parts that evoke a nearly black metal feeling, although (throughout the album in general) the guitars spend much of the time adding textural elements like feedback and noise at least as much as playing riffs. This contributes to a very full, wall-of-sound-like tonality, as they are layered on top of a heavily distorted bass that feels like sandpaper scraping on your eardrums, as well as relentless drumming that binds all the other elements together even as they sometimes go off on various tangents.

The band sometimes switches up the tempo to provide a bit of dynamic contrast, as well as to emphasize the dank, dark atmosphere of this record — with some percussive riffs dragging to a sludgy crawl in key moments of many of the songs; even more in this vein would be the slow, bluesy groove in the beginning of “Scarce,” which gradually cranks up the heaviness factor by the time the vocals enter (about three minutes in); the song switches gears about halfway through its 9+ minute running length, diving into a seemingly Sabbath-inspired bridge and outro.

But the crowning moment of the album — speaking of tempos reduced to a heavy, sludgy crawl — would absolutely have to be the sixth and final track, “Grand Failure.” Built on a painfully drawn-out distorted bass riff (occasionally with some epic semi-melodic guitar embellishments accompanying it), this magnum opus features gut-wrenching vocals that make each passing minute feel eternally long. And remarkably, the song continues to get slower and more grand as it continues on and on — until everything simply dies away, gradually swallowed whole by an awful harsh noise over the course of the last two-and-a-half minutes, until it ultimately reaches an almost unbearable peak, when it finally (mercifully and suddenly) simply terminates. I’ve really enjoyed this whole album, but this one song in particular, without a doubt I would say it ranks among my favorite songs I’ve heard within the past decade. At least.


You can listen to this album and download it from Bandcamp — see the widget below.
Shooting Blanks and Pills can be bought in physical formats directly from the record label: vinyl (currently out of stock) or CD.
more Cowards | more Throatruiner


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