Two years after its release, War Baby’s debut LP Jesus Horse is still revered amongst local music fans. The Vancouver power trio’s grubby, agitated brand of noise rock, unique approach to band merch and disorientingly loud live sets have won them an enduring fanbase. To say that their sophomore release has arrived on a wave of anticipation would be an understatement. Luckily, Death Sweats is unlikely to disappoint fans.
A fundamental sense of unease pervades throughout Death Sweats, with the band themselves describing the album as being “the audio equivalent of a chemical imbalance in the brain” and “equal parts fear of the dark and disgust for the morning light.” From the outset the unsettling nature of War Baby’s music is established, with album opener, “Master Blaster” combining nervous punk rock energy with the band’s fondness for darkly surreal lyricism. The track is a refinement of the claustrophobic grunge that characterised Jesus Horse. And running at just two minutes and thirty nine seconds, the track leaves you absolutely exhausted.
Having demonstrated the mastering of their established sound, War Baby throw us a couple of curveballs with “Spell” and “No Generation.” Both tracks are roomier sounding than most of War Baby’s output, sounding like long lost ‘90s alt-rock anthems. With a length at almost double most of the band’s output, “Belly Ache” is another example of the more spacious songs on the record. Its loose, jangly main riff allows drummer, Kirby Fisher to demonstrate his vitality before the band transitions into the tangled heavy metal of “In Light of” and “Swamp Kunt.” The album’s highlight, however, is found in the nihilistic doom metal of “God is Dead.” Perhaps the album’s most immediate track, it manages to perfectly balance the frenzied grunge, bizarre lyrics and monstrous riffs that make War Baby such a compelling band.
Although War Baby never go full pop rock on Death Sweats, the record’s flirtations with pop sensibilities embedded within intense noise rock indicates a refinement of their sound, further establishing them as one of the more exciting and original bands to emerge from the recent grunge revival.