Review: Blessing – Exquisite Tokens of Love (Pink Lemonade & Sludgelord, Mar 1)

Few things act as a better opener to a brutal sludge-hardcore album while simultaneously tapping into pandemic paranoia than a sample instructing citizens that “the bodies must be carried to the street, and- and burned. They must be burned immediately, soak them with gasoline and burn them.” Razor sharp slices of feedback plague those opening words, and once they finish a couple of snare hits signify that it’s time to be crushed. Exquisite Tokens of Love is the second release by London, Ontario quartet Blessing, and this cassette reissue brings their brand of eviscerating, heavyweight metallic hardcore to a much wider audience. The misanthropic growls and industrial strength blast beats evoke beloved bands like Friendship and Sectioned while retaining a uniquely straightforward punk backbone. The whole thing seems like a battle against feedback; “Potent Brew” begins with with a riff that trades between low and high so fast it’s dizzying, before descending into a ridiculously heavy doom breakdown with infectious dualing vocals. And just like that, the first side is over in the blink of an eye, the three bite-sized slabs of sludge offering little preparation for what’s to come on “Hand in Hand Into a Morose Extinction,” the seven-minute closer that leaves no survivors in its path. Far from the overly repetitive riff-fests that conclude many otherwise excellent powerviolence releases, the track draws its energy from the nightmarish atmosphere that surrounds its lumbering grooves and breakneck blasts, a maelstrom of misery and darkness constantly seeping in. The ending riff is pretty much exactly what I’d imagine being clubbed in the head to death would sound like. If that doesn’t motivate you to listen, I don’t know what will.

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