Gold Standard Laboratories
By: Eric G.
Tonie Joy's effect on the punk rock underworld is overwhelming to say the least. As an integral member of countless influential punk bands (most notably Born Against, Moss Icon, and Universal Order Of Armageddon) Joy has pretty much developed his own sub-genre of punk with his definitive, acrobatic guitar style. His latest outfit picks up where his last band, The Great Unraveling, left off, which is at that precarious point of tension where everything is about to blow.
The Great Unraveling was a long, drawn-out tease- an experiment in repetition and dynamics that I had little patience for. It's hard to watch a guy known for explosive punk rock meander aimlessly on his guitar without ever climaxing and cashing in on the build up. The Convocation Of… traverses similar trance-inducing terrain, but this time there is a reward for my patience. Guy Blakeslee's wiry, muscular bass lines wrap themselves tightly around George France's libidinous drumming, and Joy steps in with his noisy, virtuoso guitar to set the songs on fire.
Vocals are intermittent and secondary, but when Joy does decide to approach the microphone he lets out manic, unintelligible barks that make the music that much more disconcerting. Musically, The Convocation Of… focuses on Shellac-style instrumental exercises, but the band replaces Shellac's booming assault with a slippery unease. "Solitaire" showcases Blakeslee's serpentine bass style as well as Joy's buzzsaw guitar architecture. France pummels his drums to death but retains immaculate precision. The band's chemistry sounds like it would translate into a violent live show, but on record it offers few surprises. Surprises aren't necessary when the music is this agitated, though.
Twisting the tension on "Moments Escape", the band recalls some of Hammerhead's early forays into instrumental brutality. On "Highway" Blakeslee and France create the perfect forum for Joy to unleash his tonal rage on the guitar. The bass riff is the closest thing to a groove a punk song would allow and France follows its cues dutifully. Joy's vocals aren't always necessary and can detract from the tension of the music. He has a rough voice and an all-too-familiar inflection even a novice could trace back to Fugazi.
This music is so carefully plotted out and so emotionally stilted that it's hard to relate to its awkward attempts at anger. Fans of punk rock listen to it to vent their frustrations not to be frustrated by it. The Convocation Of… walks a fine line in that regard. I think this album would translate better as instrumental music, but keep in mind any band of Tonie Joy's is held under intense scrutiny. That said and despite the flaws this is an impressive debut.