Vancouver hardcore act ANCHORESS have chosen a pretty hilarious moniker. In Medieval times, an anchoress was considered a deeply pious woman, removed from society and usually confined to a solitary room comparable to a cell in order to pursue her devotion to the Christ. Julian of Norwich is regarded as the most notable anchoress in English history. An anchoress (or the male equivalent, the anchorite) needed permission from a bishop in order to undertake this sequestered holy mission. Frequently the candidates were put through a probation period to ensure the mental stability required to commence a voluntary enclosure.
There's hardly anything holy to this ANCHORESS, that is, unless you consider the flogging attack to their music a self-assumed sacred task. While their debut album "Set Sail" is a bit unpolished in a number of spots, there's no denying this band has heart. In direct violation of the inhibited sanctity from which they derive their namesake, ANCHORESS is an extroverted and often explosive unit wielding a noisome blend of current and older punk modes. They're also a fun-loving bunch of nuts, as evidenced by their live cover of Andrew W.K.'s "Party Hard", which you can troll for on the web if you're so inclined.
Forget any blunt proselytizing for the Second Coming on "Set Sail". Even when "Apocolunatics" calls up the end of days and goes so far as to quip "the light only falls on the cross tipped rosary", ANCHORESS is really calling out false prophets and religious-based doom carnies. "Set Sail" is thus a direct condemnation of fundamentalism, reckless human behavior, infidelity, trashy harlots and in the case of "All Sweaty Dudes", a venomous potshot against suicide. Along the way, they take a bite or two at the entertainment world, roasting "Star Wars", "The Shawshank Redemption", "Dead Man Walking", "Snakes On a Plane" and the inexplicably posh epidemic of zombie worship.
The opening tracks "Murder in the Sky Over Burnaby" and "Cadillacs" comprise about 30 seconds of the album. "Cadillacs" writhes on a fast groove with an unruly country-fried guitar wrangle from Keenan Federico before "Coral Bones" maintains a punch-heavy tempo with dirty-toned bridges and rowdy gang vocals on the choruses. Afterwards, the hysterical "She Devil" keeps the album's throb going with a spit-laden tirade against stall humping skanks. "Dirty moves in dirty bathrooms, have a good night and come again soon," Rob Hoover wails. Though he may repeat "I don't care" like a mantra, one gets the feeling the whorish muse of "She Devil" is more than just a mere acquaintance to him. While there's a peppy sub-melody gallivanting throughout "She Devil", the song is still butt ugly and funny for all the wrong reasons.
"Zombies On a Plane" is the full-on gut-buster of "Set Sail" in which ANCHORESS has a rip against the mainstream embracing of what used to be considered horrific and unbearable in the red times of Romero and Fulci. Zombies are so chic these days, even Sean Penn and Samuel L. Jackson stand to be gnawed to death by one, which Hoover and ANCHORESS blares in bald-faced fashion. The main message ANCHORESS is trying to convey in "Zombies On a Plane", however, is the deadened, uninspired hub of modern Hollywood is comparable to a commercialized tundra of the undead.
ANCHORESS switches attack methods on the successive cuts "Curses", "Apocolunatics" and "All Sweaty Dudes", where tempos are skidded at times and piercing breakdowns are fused with paranoia-inducing effects. "Foul Bay" then rings like an old skate punk anthem in spirit, though it minces in random bludgeoning chops and then crawls into a slower, melodic finale that treads cautiously towards emo fringes without turning shrill. Stand by for a jumpy punk hoedown on "Brooks Was Here" and a walloping wrap-up with "Grease Fire" before you start thinking about writing off the rest of "Set Sail".
If ANCHORESS has any real quibbles, it's they're still ironing out a few wrinkles. Not that they should clean up their sound since their mucky and rambunctious nature produces an explicit energy that makes for a quick grab. A few tightening of the drum rolls and transitions, a few roping in of stray guitar lines and more linear meshing of the front and background vocals is mostly what's required here. Those gauges will smooth out automatically the longer ANCHORESS keeps plugging, but for now, "Set Sail" plays on the edge, which is where this band has a hopeful future.