New-wave is one of those genres so saturated with artists that it’s very difficult for bands to make a record which is more than a re-hash of the genre’s heyday. Toronto 4-piece HSY categorize themselves as dark wave; a sub genre typically associated with bands who want to differentiate themselves from the umbrella genre. But is this HSY? And if so, how is BASK more than just different?
HSY take dark wave into the shadows with the tools of sludge and noise-rock: twisting the guitars into sharp daggers, emphasising the rhythm section as a menacing thud and distorting the vocals into growls. See “woulda coulda,” which makes you feel like you’re running for your life, and the irresistibly infectious lead single “Feeder” for BASK’s clearest examples. It’s a unique cocktail of influences, but it doesn’t feel particularly ground-breaking or unique.
This is the case until we reach “Interlude” where the bass kicks in slow and steady over haunting screeches of guitar, as the mononymous Jude’s vocals rip through you: “The aim of education is the knowledge / Not of the facts but of the values.” It is the first point on the record in which you can make out what either he or fellow vocalist Anna are saying. And suddenly you’re listening. HSY have dragged you into the darkness. All it took to add terror were lyrics with some bite.
From there on, the album is as a totally different beast. The rasp of Jude’s whispers on “Valour” makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s bone-chilling. Even the more familiar territory of faster-paced “Dr. DETH” adds to the sense of impending doom in a way the rest of the album doesn’t even try. Epic closer “BORG” is then the perfect soundtrack to a horror movie torture scene, complete with a closing dialogue any anti-hero would be proud of. HSY have you now, and you’re screaming for your life.
It all makes you wonder if HSY could have written one of the great cult albums. If they had been bold enough to start the record from track one and not let the tension build for 8 tracks, I think they had the potential to do just that. As it stands, they’ve written a good record that lacks the narrative punch to elevate it higher.