Nonagon found their start in Chicago’s post-hardcore scene in 2004, releasing a few singles and EPs during that era with a loud and provocative sound. After over a decade of making music together, it comes as a pleasant surprise that they’ve dropped their debut full length album in March 2021. The result is They Birds, a blend of blistering punk with a 90’s grunge and hardcore legacy in its DNA. As their first LP, the band sounds raw and uncompromising while having a distinctly refined sound backed up by years of veteran expertise. Nonagon enjoys the best of both worlds in this wild and propulsive album, one that’s filled with dark and repressed tension.
They Birds captures the mood of the modern times and condenses its emotions with an outlet of rage and aggression. Backed by the trio of Tony Aimone, Robert Wm. Gomez and John Hastie who are now around their 40’s, the juvenile energy of punk is gone from their sound, replaced by concentrated bursts of anger and pounding strength. In “Tuck the Long Tail Under” this is highlighted by Hastie’s roaring vocals, backed by guitar riffs and rhythms that are sinister and sharp, with intensity that could pummel down concrete doors. In “Family Meal”, unnerving arpeggios and a revving bass engine pound at each other in a swaggering explosion of dissonance. It’s like if horror soundtracks were written in proto-metal.
If you like what you’re reading so far, then this record is the perfect fit for you. They Birds doesn’t take a dip in intensity – not a calming breakdown or a quick breather of a section to be found except when the song ends, only to start exploding again for the next banger. “June of ‘14” is another highlight, with a math-rock swagger and a riff texture that feels like the clanging of metal sheets and pipes in a burning warehouse. The following “Jeff(s)” is as equally intricate and exhilarating, with rhythmic starts and stops that meshes together its angular riffs with the snappy snares and cymbals.
The only thing that I could describe as close to a slow-burn is the closing track “Bells”, and I mean that in the literal sense. Whining riffs and hammered drums pounce in a slow crawl yet still filled with volume and intensity. It feels like you’re trapped in an industrial furnace with no hope of escape.
As a debut album Nonagon puts everything they have into They Birds. It’s almost unfair how refined and complete this album is compared to anything else out there, it’s an effort that’s well worth the wait.