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The Chisel – What A Fucking Nightmare

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the-chisel-what-a-fucking-nightmare

The Chisel boys made their debut as a straight up UK82 revival punk band in London around 2020, founded by vocalist Cal Graham, guitarist Chubby Charles and (now ex-) drummer Nicky Sandwich. Prior to this formation, Cal had already made a name for himself with the EBM duo Nation Unrest and dark synthwave outfit Natural […]

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Artist: The Chisel

Title: What A Fucking Nightmare

Release: LP / Digital

Year: 2024

Label: Pure Noise Records

The Chisel boys made their debut as a straight up UK82 revival punk band in London around 2020, founded by vocalist Cal Graham, guitarist Chubby Charles and (now ex-) drummer Nicky Sandwich. Prior to this formation, Cal had already made a name for himself with the EBM duo Nation Unrest and dark synthwave outfit Natural Assembly, while Nick and Charlie were at the forefront of the so-called “New Wave of British Hardcore” through their work with bands like Arms Race, Violent Reaction, and Abolition.

Not long after coming together, the lads were joined by bassist Tom Ellis, with whom they released their explosive debut EP, Deconstructive Surgery. The record featured five rough cuts of UK82 aggro, with seminal tracks like “Rat Running Scared,” “Class Oppression,” and “The Chisel Boys” all crammed into a seven-inch vinyl by London’s finest DIY punk label, La Vida Es Un Mus Discos.

In 2021, The Chisel returned with three fresh tracks on the Come See Me EP, trading the razor-sharp, hardcore aggression of Deconstructive Surgery for a more anthemic, Oi!-inflected sound reminiscent of legends like Blitz, The Business, and Partisans. That same year, the band dropped two flexis: Cry Your Eyes Out single as part of New Noise Magazine’s series and the now legendary Enough Said EP on New York City’s Wardance imprint, helmed by NYHC legend Freddy Alva.

A key element of the Enough Said’s iconic status was its cover art, which was inspired by the “Weetabix Skins” characters that first appeared in British TV adverts for the wildly popular breakfast cereal in 1982. The cartoonish skinhead gang, complete with the catchphrase “If You Know What’s Good For You,” echoed the old ultra-violence of Clockwork Orange. To this day, it remains a mystery how a multinational corporation chose to positively portray skinheads to promote breakfast cereal in the early ’80s. Hats off to The Chisel for reviving the Weetabix Skins some 40 years on. Certain copies of the flexi were also sold together with Alva’s Oi! The Black Book, placing The Chisel at the heart of the Oi! revival in the 2020s and securing them a fanbase across the pond.

Now firmly established as a five-piece, The Chisel unleashed their debut full-length, Retaliation, through La Vida Es Un Mus in the latter part of 2021, cementing their reputation as one of the standout bands of the new decade. The album delivered 14 tracks of dancefloor-stomping, working-class Chisel anthems. In the wake of neo-Thacherite politics, Brexit and the pandemic, the band deftly found the sweet spot between politically charged lyrics and rousing pub-rock anthems. They captured the turmoil and discontent of the era, drawing on the best of UK82, Oi! and even hinting at modern anarcho-punk outfits like Stevenage’s Bad Breeding.

Building on the momentum of Retaliation, The Chisel didn’t rest on their laurels and continued to produce excellent new music. Alongside their intense live shows and international tours, the band released a split EP with Guadalajara, Mexico’s phenomenal Blitz-inspired Oi! band MESS through Basque label Mendeku Diskak. The Chisel’s frontman Cal also lent his vocals to Home Front’s standout single Nation, a highlight of the Canadian duo’s impressive Games of Power LP in 2023.

Released on 9th February 2024, The Chisel’s second album What A Fucking Nightmare opens a new chapter in the band’s history, marking their departure from niche DIY labels and their debut on Californian-based Pure Noise Records, known for signing everything that’s hyped and trendy at the moment, from cash-cow pop-punk bands to hardcore acts like Stick To Your Guns and Knocked Loose.

On these 16 tracks, some of which I’ve had the pleasure of hearing live prior to the album’s release, the band double down on the melodic and anthemic influences of bands like The Business, while retaining a powerful and biting hardcore angst and lyricism. From the get-go, the title track boots down the door, setting a defiant and unyielding tone for the album. As the record unfolds, it becomes clear that The Chisel are armed and ready to deploy a barrage of harsh British slang and unapologetic bile, cutting with the precision of a scalpel through the façade of Britain’s political establishment and the stratifications of class society.

Tracks like “No Gimmicks” and the aforementioned “Cry Your Eyes Out,” previously released as a single, delve into the raw edges of authenticity and the harsh realities of domestic neglect and mistreatment of women. “Nice To Meet You” turns the tables on hypocrisy, with the band not shying away from calling out “two-faced cunts” and “gobshite fuckers” in a scathing critique of inauthentic social exchanges. This brutal honesty is the thread that binds the album, making every song resonate with the geezer’s own sense of disillusionment.

By the time you get to “Living for Myself” and “Fuck ‘Em,” you’re fully immersed in the working-class reality of The Chisel—a world where defiance is a virtue, and punk music is a rallying cry for those sick to the back teeth of being told what to think and how to act—”life is hard but I know that I can beat it.” The lyrics across the album are a masterclass in reviving the glory of UK punk not just for the sake of it, but to hammer home points about (class) politics, social justice, and personal freedom. With tracks like “Lying Little Rat (Propaganda)” and “Bloodsucker,” The Chisel prove adept at painting vivid pictures of media manipulation and leech-like relationships, all while keeping their language as colorful as a British pub after a football match.

“Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” and “Those Days” are anthems of skepticism and nostalgia, respectively, each offering a different facet of the band’s narrative prowess. The former is a defiant stand against empty political promises, while the latter is a reflective look back at better days. As the album progresses into “Evil By Evil,” “Tomorrow,” and “Vengeance is for Me,” The Chisel dive deeper into the themes of retaliation (a nod to their first album), existential dread, and personal vendetta, never once losing their edge or their ability to expose the fuckers. The closing tracks “Cuts Like A Knife” and “What I See” (featuring Paul Bearer of the mighty Sheer Terror) serve as a final reflection on the effectiveness of political engagement and the internal battles we face, including not giving in to hatred, wrapping up the album with a powerful statement on the state of the world and our place within it.

The album was once again recorded, mixed and mastered by Jonah Falco of Fucked Up and Career Suicide fame, who has worked with The Chisel since their inception and remains a true fan of the band. I’m not sure where the idea for the artwork came from, but it brings to mind Luis Buñuel’s 1972 surreal masterpiece The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, a brilliant post-May ’68 critique of the bourgeoisie that explores themes of hypocrisy, absurdity, and the futility of conventional social rituals.

I remain a bit skeptical, however, about how well a distinctively British gang like The Chisel will mesh with a label like Pure Noise, who have found themselves in the position of having to censor the album title to “What A F*cking Nightmare” and tracks like “F*** ‘Em” in their press releases and promotional activities. It strikes me as an odd pairing, maybe similar to a cereal giant like Weetabix co-opting the skinhead cult of the early ’80s for profit. Time will tell, however, how this album will be received by both The Chisel’s old fans (I’ve already seen some negative feedback) and their now expanded global bootprint.

But whatever you have to say, What A Fucking Nightmare is a testament to the enduring power of punk music to convey angst and social disillusionment to a young audience in an immediate and authentic way, and a reminder that, sometimes, the only way to make sense of a fucking nightmare is to scream right back at it. Fuck ‘Em!

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Source: diyconspiracy.net

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