Sulaco – The Privilege Review

Oh, a new Sulaco EP, you say? Well, now… That’s good news.

A few years back, Sulaco’s last full-length The Prize ground its way onto my year-end list, all killer twisting riffage and blistering anger, techy grind that didn’t trade ferocity for flash. Since then, Sulaco has added a full-time vocalist in Jason Leone, but not much else has changed, it seems. The Privilege is still filled with spastic savagery; its riffs bob and weave around and against one another, pulling from grindcore and hardcore, from metalcore (the good kind) and death metal, from noise and from whatever else Misters Burke and Mason decide to use.

Release date: August 17, 2020. Label: Independent.
New kid Leone’s screams are formidable ones, generally intelligible, alternating between a midrange growl and a higher biting screech, occasionally augmented with additional vocals from mainman and former grunter / shouter Erik Burke. Though they were by no means bad, Burke’s vocals were the weakest component on previous Sulaco outings, so Leone’s presence for The Privilege is a welcome addition, even if it’s one I wouldn’t have previously thought necessary.

Still, that improved vocal performance notwithstanding, Sulaco’s greatest strength remains in the way they can toss off a wealth of catchy and killer riffs, seemingly with ease. The seven-minute “Warning Signs” alone has a half-dozen riffs that many lesser bands would kill for, some of them used only for a few moments and abandoned as new ones move in to take their place. There’s the spinning introductory motif that never sits still, twisting and turning as it incorporates new directions, spreading its tendrils before collapsing into a brief sludgy turnaround punctuated by driving midtempo blasts; then there’s a doomy downtempo middle section, with dissonant arpeggios and a woozy lead melody; all of that resolves into a chunky chugging palm-muted heavy riff, offset with biting pinch harmonics, before returning to more of the spinning and twisting that opened the track. It’s riff after riff after riff, just like the Good Lord intended…

The Privilege spends its first fifteen or so minutes shredding eardrums and breaking necks with the likes of “Warning Sign” or the roiling swagger of “Cutup” before devoting its final four minutes to the noisy experimentation of “Sulakka.” For that one, the only “lead” vocal is a tribal chanted “Hey! Oh! Hah!” and the occasional monkey noise, yet, even those minimal sounds are still weirdly hugely hooky. Distant screams and squalling guitars float around, while about halfway through bassist Spoth and drummer Crif seem to commit to playing a song that the rest of the band remains hellbent on deconstructing. It’s a surprisingly effective bit of oddball experimentation, and one that’s especially engaging when compared to some of the ennui-inducing noise tracks other grind bands peddle as “experiments.”

The Privilege is yet another feather in Sulaco’s collective cap, another example of their ability to sculpt a pile of remarkable weirdo riffage into catchy tech-grind tunes. In the end, the only fault with it is that, at nineteen minutes, there’s not enough of it. With the added bonus of a stronger vocalist to color their grinding, Sulaco circa 2020 is not new, but they’re certainly improved, and The Privilege is the proof in the proverbial pudding.

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

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