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Volatile Substance:
Review + Stream

Written by Daniel Vandenberg

They definitely got “volatile” right. This latest offering from Oakland, CA newcomers Volatile Substance – their second since June – barely makes it past the five minute mark and yet manages more caustic energy, aggression and balls-out fury than the average hardcore band can muster up in four times that length. Emergency Exit careens from a sludgy, down-tempo opening that sounds like it’s constantly about to fall in on itself, through some of the most frenetic, violent hardcore that calls to mind the amphetamine aggression of Youth Attack bands like Salvation and Charles Bronson, building in intensity until it literally collapses into white noise, the final repeating riff driving itself into your skull as it is gradually consumed by cascading waves of distortion in a borderline power electronics freakout. It’s a cliche that’s been beaten to death, but Volatile Substance really do start with everything at 10 and only turn it up from there, using what most listeners would consider the absolute peak level of intensity possible as their default ‘quiet’ mode, from which they proceed to explode into realms of sonic violence previously unheard of.


Jorge’s lyrics are suitably bleak and pissed off, although you’ll never make them out, but that’s how we like it. His final impassioned screams, as he and the rest of the band are engulfed in absolute aural annihilation, sound like exactly that – a man’s final dying screams, and it is moving, chilling stuff.

Like the best volatile substances, Emergency Exit is fast, furious and ends in complete destruction, and also like their namesake, Volatile Substance leave you with an immediate and burning need for more. You won’t even notice that this release doesn’t even make the six minute mark because you will have it on repeat, trust me.

Emergency Exit comes in a limited cassette run like its sold-out predecessor Soak My Body In Gasoline. Bathe Myself In Fire., which apparently actually came soaked in gasoline and with a complimentary match. Awesome marketing tactics aside, Emergency Exit is a definite step up for Volatile Substance, with a noticeable increase in both recording quality and songwriting ability, stretching the sonic range of hardcore while pushing its emotional and aural intensity to new peaks.

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