Despite having a name that’s a copy editor’s worst nightmare (no, these reviews are not copy edited and all grammatical errors, trite phrases, oft repeated tropes and typos are purely down to the writer here), 16 have been around since 1992, and whilst you may be forgiven for not hearing of them before (I had heard of them but not listened to them) seeing as they have a moveable feast of a line up (only guitarist (also providing vocals for the first time) Bobby Ferry survives from their initial incarnation), it’s remarkable that 16 have survived this long. Long given to dark melancholic themes around suffering, addiction staggering along, long dimly lit underpasses where life goes to die, 16’s heart is still beating.
Peddling what can best be described as sludge/doom/hardcore inflected metal, 16’s latest album ploughs similar territory to their impressive back catalogue of eight full length albums. It is an interesting amalgam of musical styles and I will be first to admit it took a few listens to fully get under the hood of what 16 were all about. In fact, for the first three listens to Dream Squasher, I had a nagging, hard to reach itch, in a place I could not reach. I recognised what the band were doing here and it hugely reminded of one band (well several actually but one in particular) and it suddenly came to me, prompted as it was by one of the numerous film samples of desperate men and women, at odds with life, themselves and each other featured amongst the tracks on offer here. Well actually it came in two waves, the percussive hardcore, groove on display here when the tempo deigns to be above a crawly, methadone induced drone, bears a very, very close resemblance to Max Cavalera’s and Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel fame’s side project Nailbomb. It is the heavily distorted vocals, phrasing and composition of the songs that really remind me of Point Break, Nailbomb’s debut (and only) release. But it is more than that. It has some of the dirty grease of Ministry’s oeuvre but slowed down to quarter speed but a shared commonality from a lyrical perspective nevertheless
I mean, it could be argued that these comparisons can be turned back the other way, given the longevity of the band but there are moments when the pace really slows especially on ‘Screw Uno Others’ where the tempo drops to a flickering pulse, where the sludgy bass and syncopated staccato drums, join a sledgehammer guitar in a wonderful meshing of musical styles that throw up the best of say Crowbar, EyeHateGod, Swamp Coffin and Old Man Gloom. Away from the doom and gloom, when the tempo lifts again, you can hear Post Hardcore-isms that wouldn’t sound out of place on early Helmet releases, but given they were former label mates back in the day this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
In summary, this album is an enjoyable meshing of musical styles that keeps you on your toes. Given the history of the band and the fact that they still sound relevant, immediate and interesting this far into their career, is good news and if this review prompts you to delve into their back catalogue for a good old root around, then you’ll find much to enjoy. It swings, grooves, shakes its ass and noodles along on a bedrock of big, epic sounding guitars and distorted, gargled vocals, coupled with some genuinely memorable tunes. 16 have conspired to create an album that grows in importance and more importantly enjoyment on each further listen.
(8/10 Nick Griffiths)