Three Sixes - Know God, No Peace... (Universal Sign Records)

A Scattergun mashup of genres that tries too hard to be all things to all men...
Release Date: 
20 Sep 2014 - 11:30pm

American metallists Three Sixes seem to have a few identity issues. A first glance at the lavish packaging surrounding the CD suggests they might be a punk or hardcore band, what with the back cover echoing the work of UK agit punx Crass and all. Then a poster falls out of the sleeve, all images of nuclear holocaust, nefarious prelates and politicians and you’re thinking ‘yes! Definitely some sort of old school thrash/crossover act!’. 

Then the music starts.

Intro track Saviour sets things up well enough, introducing us to singer Damien’s scratchy howl of a voice, before lead track proper Lead Winged Angel  kicks you in the 'nads with a furious take on the sort of thrash Overkill and Exodus churn out these days. Where’s the punk? Ain’t nowhere I can find it, but it’s early days and what we’re hearing at this point is really rather good. Onwards and upwards into track three, Darkside – and here’s where my problems start. A baleful piano intro gives the first clue of what lie ahead, and then Damien goes off on a sort of half-spoken semi rap, working himself into a frenzy until he sounds like Bobby ‘Blitz’ Elsworth singing a Korn outtake. This is disconcerting to my old punk ears, and not very pleasant if I’m honest. Didn’t this sort of schtick die out ten years ago? Obviously not. Or maybe it’s an American thing. Who knows? Whatever, I dount if this track will be troubling my ears again.

Next track Truth is much more like it. A straightforward blast of West Coast hardcore fury topped off with Damien’s totally over-the-top delivery and some gang vocalled shouting of ‘TRUTH!!’ this is much more what I was expecting when I opened the tin, and all the better for it. A steaming, unfettered thrash anthem, it’s the best thing so far on the album and it’s made me completely forget that nonsense on Darkside. Arch Enemy isn’t quite as good, but Three Sixes appear to be getting into something of a groove now and hitting their stride. A big, busy chorus carries the track, although the crawling, chugging verses aren’t quite as good. I’m very definitely getting the notion here that this band operates best at higher speeds…

This idea is borne out by Soul Destroyer, which rides in on a wave of electronic belches and farts, blips an- (we get the idea – impatient Ed), and never really recovers from that scratchy start. Damien goes for a Burton C. Bell approach here, but it’s not working for me. Heinz may have prospered with 57 varieties, but Three Sixes definitely work best when they keep it simple and thrashy to my mind.

All the disparate musical threads so far exhibited actually come pretty close to coalescing on the angry Kingdom of Lies. All the best bits from the half dozen previous tracks are thrown into the pot and out comes a steaming piece of mid-paced metallic aggression that really works. Note to Three Sixes: Maybe persevere with this singular direction for a whole album’s worth of material next time!

They can’t even manage it for one song here, of course; Hand of Hell features some more staccato, almost rap vocalising from Damien and more of that jagged, simplistic downtuned riffage so beloved of no-hope acts like Five Finger Death Punch. I’m still waiting for a bit more punk, by the way.

Saint? Actually confounds my carping by sounding just like the track that’s gone before it for a couple of minutes before speeding up a bit and ramping up the intensity, but it’s limp ending doesn’t do justice to what seemed to be a song building up to an explosive crescendo.

A few more bleeps and then, seemingly out of nowhere, the band throws in a cover of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. Why? Amidst all the angst, all the swearing, all the rapping, all the shouting comes a weird take on straightforward commercial hard rock. It stands out like a stiffy in a nunnery – and not in a good way – although guitarist Kill does slip a very nice solo in to make things a bit better.

After this madness the second half of the album is doomed to sounding frankly humdrum, surely. That said, Underground Celebrity is a serviceable piece of modern metal that works well, probably because the bells and whistles are stripped away, leaving the band to simply grind out some pleasing riffs and a catchy chorus. Guess what – it works! Unit 731 is the album’s standout track; a blistering, unhinged rant from Damien is backed up by some more tight work from Kill and some nice drums courtesy of Komyaku behind the kit. Like Kingdom of Lies, this is a track where Three Sixes starts to make sense as a musical entity, stripping back the peripherals to concentrate on delivering a face-melting blast of angry metal. It’s a grand listen.

Where Eternity Starts finds the band slipping into their gothic outfits, Damien doing his best Filth/Manson creepfest with a spoken word delivery that works despite the high cheese levels, but the same can’t be said for the anti-religion rant of Revelation, which is just boring.

That’s fourteen tracks down, and yet amazingly there is still over twenty minutes more material to wade through in the shape of the sprawling title track and a ten-minute-long mystery bonus track, which on my copy was untitled but which turns out to be a ten minute polemic on something or other. To be honest I wasn’t really taking much in by this point, having had my senses battered by Three Sixes over the preceding hour or so. The band clearly have something to offer, though the ability to self edit may not be one of their premier talents; There’s simply too much going on here – and too much material, period – for Know God, No Peace to be a truly rewarding listening experience. Should they choose to come back leaner, more focussed and concentrating on the sort of music featured in the tracks I’ve picked out for praise here then I’ll be happy to listen to their next effort, but that may be too much of an ask for a band that clearly has a lot - no, make that A LOT - to say on the way of the world in 2014…