Cath Daly


premiere: feel the noise of copperhead’s ‘sugar daddy on fire’

August 6, 2019

Noise music is well, noise. It is a disregard of structure, melody, and rhythm with a focus on sound and the reactions it causes — be it emotional or hopefully physical with the right speaker setup. Noise rock, however, is a bit harder to nail. Plenty of bands describe themselves as such but there really isn’t a specific sonic idea that unites them all. The indie rock coolness of Autolux sounds miles away from the unhinged metallic onslaught of Shellac. If there is a constant, it seems to be a mastery of whatever genre they are writing in with a willingness to intentionally fuck up a song just enough to make it sound even better.

Copperhead is a post-hardcore band that plays a bludgeoning form of noise rock. Revolving around multi-instrumentalist David Leonard; on paper, Copperhead checks off all the expected boxes. You have hook-filled knotty riffs and breakdowns that are as circle pit-friendly as possible. But there’s a unique edge to the anger that avoids sounding rote (a common problem among underground heavy bands.)

So what is the special sauce that makes Copperhead hit harder than most bands out there? They don’t give the listener any time to get their bearings. Copperhead’s newest release on NYC’s PTP (Purple Tape Pedigree) label, Gazing In the Dark, is a masterclass in keeping the listener on their toes. The riffs fall in unexpected places and zig when they should zag. Vicious breakdowns get teased only to drop out again for more riffage twists and turns. When the barrage stops to introduce a quick comical jazz introduction out of nowhere even that seems perfect in place in the chaos.

A marching drum beat and militaristic bark starts off the second half of the record with lyrics like “Billowing waves of electric smoke.” While not explicitly political, Copperhead tackles topics like suicide, domestic abuse, and mass shootings. When they ask, “Does anyone know how we got here?” it’s with exasperation and frustration. The anger here isn’t the self-righteous kind you find in hardcore (personal betrayals, vague sociopolitical targets) but one that comes from the anxiety and disgust of living in a world where atrocities have been allowed to become mundane. It’s not hard to discern the musical imprint of some of Gazing in the Dark‘s moves; the industrial stomp of early Swans, the sludge of early Melvins, and traditional metal flourishes. But combined it’s a furious mix that demands attention. Copperhead makes music about a broken world to help us better deal with ours.

Copperhead’s newest single, “Sugar Daddy On Fire” is exemplary of everything that makes Gazing in the Dark special. The project will be out on September 6th, 2019 on PTP and is available for pre-order here.