One of the strangest things about nostalgia for the '90s is how people tend to focus on grunge and nu-metal as the decade's primary phenomena. Both genres started well and ended badly, leaving a lot of truly dismal music behind. And a few classics, I'll grant you. But smart folk know that the '90s was a much more exciting time if you didn't spend it entirely with baggy-trousered man-children or poorly dressed, doe-eyed junkies. Instead, you could have listened to a whole ton of exhilarating shit that embraced cross-pollination and shameless genre-hopping in a way that didn't necessarily involve bad rapping and beards with beads in them.
Many of the most exciting things that happened involved a collision between abrasive guitars and clattering electronics, and while PITCHSHIFTER never quite conquered the mainstream, they were fully representative of a genuinely subversive approach to heavy music, wherein crunching industrial rock and neck-snapping breakbeats propelled crunchy, staccato riffs along at a breathless pace, and everybody went righteously mental in dingy nightclubs at 1 AM. Those riffs were created by JIM DAVIES, and while it would be unfair to say that "Headwars" is an exercise in nostalgia, it does have strong, purposeful echoes of the same fearless, cut-'n'-paste aesthetic that made PITCHSHIFTER's best records so potent and enduring.
The difference is that Davies now has an additional 25 years of technological developments and musical evolutionary leaps to deconstruct and rebuild in his own restless image. "Headwars" is sonically monstrous, firmly at the cutting edge of just about everything and, a few nods to the old days aside, very much a record that looks forward, follows a fresh path and finds, to no great surprise, that massive tunes are still essential. Bolstered by a gaggle of guest cameos — including from former bandmates Jason Bowld (now drummer with BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE, weirdly enough) and vocalist MD Clayden, who rolls back the robot-metal years on the spiky, slamming "Control + Z" — Davies is a sage-like master of ceremonies, serving up a steady stream of twisted sonic backdrops. The opening title track is all wobbly bass and electro-rock menace; "Ticking Timebomb" is a stuttering, techno stomper with a big, gnarly chorus, like PRONG remixed by DEPECHE MODE; "Shadows" is doomy, digi-goth melancholy, like something PARADISE LOST Mmight have recorded for "Host", but with bonus trap hi-hats; "Zombies" is an utterly berserk, drum 'n' bass-cum-punk rock beat 'em up, with Davies demanding "please hashtag me" over an insistent pulse.
In truth, the poppier vibes of "Now You Know" and the disco-dubstep thump of "We Set the Pace" might be a detour too far for the average SLAYER fan, but if you want to hear what one of the '90s most ingenious musician is doing with the modern world at his fingertips, "Headwars" will scratch that pre-millennial itch with vigor.