Not to be confused with the purposefully-weird California outfit, Bad Acid Trip, who got some exposure in the middle part of the last decade when System of a Down’s Serj Tankian got behind them for an album release, the Greek four-piece Bad Trip specialize in a noisy brand of instrumental post-metal. Their first self-released EP, What Does Not Evolve Must Burn, follows a demo and a split with fellow Thessaloniki natives 63High, and boasts four songs across three tracks spanning 23 minutes in a hand-stamped black and white digibook that makes it an immediate curiosity. I opened the package it came in and had to put the disc on right away, which almost never happens.
What Does Not Evolve Must Burn has sonic intensity to match its fervent title. The double guitars of Alex and George (first names only) are heavy tone-wise, but gain further weight from the quick changes they make and their ability to fluidly tie the music together. The rhythm section of Fots (bass) and Sakis (drums) does a more than capable job keeping up, Fots adding character to the third cut, “My Homeland is Not Land but People.” The titles all take on a sociopolitical theme, opening with “Oppressed,” and running through “Antination” and the secret cut, “Organized Crime,” which features a lengthy spoken sample from Richard Linklater’s 2001 film Waking Life the text of which is printed on the inside of the packaging. That sample starts, “Our critique began as all critiques begin, with doubt. Doubt became our narrative,” and affects an atmosphere similar to that on Neurosis’ “Takeahnase” from 1992’s Souls at Zero.
What’s perhaps most curious about Bad Trip, though, is why a band who obviously has so much to say would be instrumental. Their discontent is ably conveyed musically, and with the open structures of the songs, it’s not like they’re sitting there waiting for a singer to come along and slap on a chorus, but for a band to offer such thematic passion – political passion, no less, which it seems everyone and anyone can vocalize at will – and not back it up with lyrics feels like an odd choice. Maybe they just couldn’t find anyone and didn’t want to do it themselves. Again, the songs don’t sound like they’re missing vocals – at a constantly shifting 23 minutes, there’s hardly time for them to be – but it’s contrary to expectation and so notable that they’re not there.
The highlight of What Does Not Evolve Must Burn, then, is the aforementioned fluidity of the material, how the parts bleed into one another, like how “Oppressed” brings back its intro riff as it concludes, or “Antination” moves from sample-fronted chaos (“fx” are credited to Lopez in the liner) to a chugging breakdown, then onto one of the EP’s most accessible grooves, then back again. “Antination” is the longest and most sprawling of the four cuts, but the start-stop stomp of “My Homeland is Not Land but People” is definitely a standout moment. As that song fades out around the 5:45 mark and a couple minutes of silence set in before “Organized Crime” revives the outro riff, you quickly come to realize just how tight Bad Trip are as a unit that they can jump from part to part the way they do and completely bring you along with them. These aren’t even songs in the conventional pop meaning, but they engage wholly nonetheless.
I don’t know yet how What Does Not Evolve Must Burn holds up on extended repeat listens, but I’ve been through it four or five times now and it’s still gripping in a hyper-cerebral kind of way, with its evocative atmospherics and subversive elements. It’s short, but it seems to accomplish everything it sets out to do sound-wise, and I’d be interested to see how Bad Trip progress from here and if they’d be able to hold my attention so thoroughly over the course of a full-length album. Maybe they’re not there yet, but I know I want to be there to hear it when they arrive.
Tags: Bad Trip, Greece, Thessaloniki, Unsigned bands