Revered and reviled (both, generally, for all the wrong reasons) by post-mods scattered across many lands, this Minneapolis (but don’t think that reveals anything) trio has consistently chiseled out the most physically and cerebrally assaultive post-hardcore you’ll ever hear. Leader Tom Hazelmyer, who pulled stints in both Otto’s Chemical Lounge and the Marines (not a band), has become a counter-counterculture guru of sorts for folks whose righteous disaffection extends to most things “alternative.” His persona, aptly self-assessed as “sexist, homophobic, pro-vivisectionist straight-edge litterbug,” colors, with varying degrees of irony, virtually all the plentiful releases on his Amphetamine Reptile label.
Halo of Flies initially doled out tightly wound, intricately improvisational punk rock in impossibly limited editions that believers prize like slivers of the True Cross. Those who missed out can catch up with Four From the Bottom, a cassette that compiles the entire contents of the band’s four AmRep 7-inches, or the similar Singles Going Nowhere (the cover a careful tribute to the Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady), which omits a few of those tracks but adds a two-song salvo (a version of the Creation’s “How Does It Feel to Feel” and the MC5’s “I Want You Right Now” retitled “Drunk in Detroit”) that hints at Halo’s live power. Both are bracing samplers of the band’s sub-three-minute virtuosity.
Moving up to 12-inch releases, Halo displays greater savvy in both studio usage and song structure; though the intensity dips just a notch on Garbage Rock!, Hazelmyer’s spinning, Hendrix-on-Carbona guitar implosions occur regularly enough to sate the feedback-dependent. Headburn, however, brings it all together, with disjointed lyrics that have become more violent (apocalyptic, even) in their reflexive response to the outside world. What’s more, the rhythm section’s brute force can be felt for the first time. Combined in the UK as Garbageburn, these two discs provide the easiest entry into an otherwise hermetically sealed universe.
Between breakups, Halo of Flies continues to sporadically disgorge small-scale releases. Death of a Fly retreats to basic sonic cruelty, while Winged takes a sharp U-turn towards conceptual territory with an all-covers, all-insect bill of fare, highlighted by a version of the Cramps’ “Human Fly.” It’s the live EP, however, that best captures the surly Halo spirit, from the opening “This whole fucking city needs a haircut!” through the screeching coda of “Ballad of Extreme Hate,” Hazelmyer and his unit reassert their place as an essential kink in the gears of alternative rock’s gravy train.
Music for Insect Minds is a compilation.