From the squealing, feedback-ridden get go of “Permanent Vacation” to the fading chaos of “Thoughts of Honey”, Direct Effect’s debut album Sunburn feels like it’s coming to life as it’s played. Not only are the discordant guitars, guttural vocals and crashing drumbeats mixed in a way that resembles a basement show, but the immediacy and the surging energy of the songs also carry an almost frantic tone. From start to finish it’s an album that demands attention – one that won’t act as background music thanks to its brash aggression. The aesthetic is a success, even if at times the songwriting doesn’t follow.
Direct Effect is a band that wears their roots on their sleeves. The tracks on Sunburn are not derivative, but they bring together a few familiar styles from the past couple of decades. Off-kilter shouts and deep-grooving guitars connect with sharp drum snaps on “Unknown Disorder”, acknowledging their appreciation for the beautiful mess that hardcore can be. Later on “Moderate Rock”, they speed through two breakneck verses before going letting up and giving the track a half-time breath – a tempo move they fall back on multiple times over the course of Sunburn.
Tracks like “Digested” and “Solar Flare” are where the band really shines, as they build tension before releasing into almost melodic segments. Each feels almost sparse as they rely on wild amounts of feedback and shouted vocals to guide the song more than the chords that then highlight each track’s chorus. Unfortunately, they are unable to replicate similar successes throughout the entirety of Sunburn. The latter half of the album finds Direct Effect falling too often into mid-tempo sections that glaze over the more frantic and driving elements. There is a place for pacing on this album, but at 13 tracks long, the similarly structured songs blend together.
Sunburn is the kind of album that brings attention to a group of guys who know what they are doing. The chops are there, and it seems inevitable that the songs translate well to a live setting. With some fine-tuned songwriting, Direct Effect could be turning heads in a short time. For now, they’ve put out an enjoyable debut album on which energy and attitude showcase their growing potential.