Claiming divine inspiration (actually, it was Big Black they named in interviews), this trio from Nottingham, England, cranked up an infernal roar of brutal Chicago-style razor-riff punk overdrive and then refined it into a mighty metal machine. Subtle as a flying hacksaw and twice as rude (who would actually want to be in a band known as Fudge Tunnel?), the group fires off bolts of raucous energy in the first two EPs (later packaged together as Fudgecake). Led by Alex Newport’s exploding guitar and raw shouts, the band can barely keep up with itself in calamitous performances held together by collective desperation. Rather than pose any actual threat, songs like “Leprosy,” “Best Friends Wife” and “Shit for Brains” illuminate the make-believe viciousness.
Pulled tighter by co-producer Colin Richardson, Hate Songs in E Minor (the spine of which reads Fudge Tunnel’s First Movement) ratchets the meaningless fury up a few harsh notches. Distortion on Newport’s voice and the close-formation bludgeoning make a grindcore connection; if Fudge Tunnel (“the sphincter triplets”) played much faster, there’d be real sonic hell to pay. Thundering to a close with a pair of quizzical covers-Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever,” both played like Black Sabbath songs in need of fresh coats of battery acid-Hate Songs smiles right through the blisters.
But enough fun, and Fudge Tunnel subsequently moved into heavier metal. Even when Newport’s production of Creep Diets doesn’t bury the music in maniacal sheets of distorted cacophony, the now-humorless trio’s carefully directed ferocity and chanted lyrics point nowhere just as clearly. There is one half-temperate pop song (“Don’t Have Time for You”) and a quiet instrumental (“Hot Salad”) to interrupt the onslaught, but Creep Diets is a crashing bore. All muscle and no audible brain, Fudge Tunnel — well on its way toward the violence of speed metal — turns songs into military exercises, sucking the joy of volume away in crack displays of stop-on-a-plectrum efficiency. Helmet may dance around this kind of thing, but Fudge Tunnel steps deep in it.
“Escape to nowhere/The joy of irony/Take exit 15/There you’ll find me.” Seekers of enlightenment — and students of irony — won’t find many rewards in The Complicated Futility of Ignorance. The first Fudge Tunnel album to print its lyrics is revealed to be the trio’s heaviest, grimmest and surliest. As a refined dose of pure musical aggression that grabs, holds and savages, however, it’s the band’s most effective. Having brought the presence of Adrian Parkin’s drums and David Ryley’s bass up to match his woolly guitar din, Newport consolidates it all with authoritarian discipline and navigates the band like a well-tuned tiger, launching agile assaults and then dropping down low for an ominous prowl until unleashing the next explosion of fury. At over an hour (including an unlisted bonus track), this is too much of a good thing, and the pretentious packaging and disgusted lyrics are warning signs for what may lie ahead, but this movement of Fudge Tunnel is a stinger.
In a Word doesn’t provide any answers: it’s a compilation of raging 1990-93 radio broadcast sessions, intense concert rips and bludgeoning studio covers of Black Sabbath (“Changes”) and late-’60s heavy trio May Blitz (“For Madmen Only”). Very ‘eavy, very ‘umble and a perfect stocking stuffer for the bad little kid in the family.