After the itinerant incarcerations of 2020, 2021 needs the gates bustin’ open, the seams burstin’ apart, the foundations flattening and rebuilding. And it’s only January.

This New Year needs new noise. This New Year needs new poise. This New Year needs these boys.

Polemically raging, sonically engaging and a necessitated contagion, debut album by Bristol’s LICE the timely titled ‘WASTELAND: What ails our people is clear’ is a clattering smattering of assonance, dissonance and resonance.

Nothing is (im)passive. Everything must be (pro)active. Anger 2.0 is more than an energy, it’s a call to arms (figuratively speaking).

There are tonal traces of Pere Ubu’s (t)experimentalism, all serrated guitars that manage to make twine-tuning sound orchestral within a quiet>loud>louder formulae and sprechgesang vocals sung subdued and/or roof-raising. At other times they remind of contemporaries Black Midi and Idles and others of the mysterious The Legendary Pink Dots (especially on closer ‘Clear’) and Throbbing Gristle’s existential horrorscapes. There’s so much going on FULL ATTENTION is not expected it’s demanded.

With titles (‘satirical doctrines’) such as ‘Imposter’, ‘Pariah’, ‘Persuader’ and ‘Arbiter’ there’s a narrative-poetic spine that points at the perpetrators, sights the parasites and reveals the concealed. Liminal minimal meets subliminally pivotal.

Accompanying the album is a manifesto and dystopic(al) short story that contextualises and expresses the narrative concerns at the heart of the matter. Within the context of the story (an x-rated sci-fi escapade) The Conveyor relates the schemes of the shadowy RDC and flamboyant Dr Coehn to engineer the human race’s self-annihilation. I wonder W.H.O. this could be interpreted at …? Answers on a postcard to ...

Opener ‘Conveyor’ hums and thrums a motorik electro-pulse on the verge of combustion augmented by a heavy metallic mental maelstrom. The filmic and gradually building ‘Serata’ potently packs a malevolent punch before erupting into a sonic slash n’ burn saga.

The hot-metal ire-n-brimstone ‘Pariah’ is for the alienated, the atomised, the ostracised. The outspoken, the heretic. In an epoch of mediated and uniformed conformity, to question is human, to defer supine. The grand finale, ‘Clear’ (featuring band associate Katy J Pearson and Goat Girl’s Lottie Cream and Holly Hole on ethereal duties) has echoes of early Alice Cooper; gothically portentous, the sounds of (hu)mancipation or further abnegation? The right choices must be made.

The overall result is a post-industrial-prog-punk-rock-opera-opus, a ‘Disconcerto’, if you like and arguably the first of its kind. The album cover itself depicts a Salvador Dali-esque surrealistic barren landscape visage. As an articulation of 2020’s psychically damaging and ravaging effects, the album is a balming, becalming tonic for this time of tumult.

Angry, abrasive, antagonistic, this won’t be for everyone, nor could it or should it be. Buckle, up, strap yourself in and embrace and engage (wilfully) with the WASTELAND.