In the early 90s, pop punk came alive with a melodic velocity full of fist-pumpin’ body-slammin’ joy and optimism. It was still laced with tongue-in-cheek humour and loads of cynicism, but the personal politics it favoured leaned into positive vibrations, moving away from tear-down nihilism that drove punk rock in its early days.
Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, the same upbeat punk looms in the heart of the Dirty Nil. The power trio, however, veer off into numerous directions that bend, reshape and magically morph that 90s initiative into a different beast of its own.
Free Rein to Passions, the Nil’s fourth studio album, is an aggressive onslaught of energy that cleverly overhauls metal, punk, and hard rock. Slow, heavy, deep drop drones giveaway to tight, crunchy guitar riffs and fast fluid solos that squeal with precision, echoing the bygone glam and glory of big-hair arena rock. Yet none of these influences retread tired territory. Rather it’s a new breed of explosive punk that vocalist/guitarist Luke Bentham skilfully commands, happily dragging you into his take-no-prisoners point of view.
“This whole working for you, aint working for me,” Bentham sings on the anthem, “Stupid Jobs.” While the gang vocals in the chorus might ring out like a folky late-nite singalong in the pub, Bentham’s “take this job and shove it” defiance still rips right through.
That’s one of the impressive qualities of this punk rock powerhouse, they clearly articulate their emotion with absolute conviction, designed to grab everyone in their reach. The other is Bentham’s sensational vocals, which showcase his sly sense of humour and astonishing talent as a songwriter. Free Rein to Passions is a bold beauty of a record that seamlessly moves from gripping metal to rip-it-up rock and free-flowing punk, reverberating ecstatic shock waves to the skull.