Agitated Fight Amp brawl back with sludgy anger on powerful fourth album ‘Constantly Off’

Fight AmpIt’s mid-week, right? Feeling miserable and beaten down kind of comes with the territory, because while half of the week is in the rearview, the other 50 percent is still to come. And for those of us who don’t know what a regular work schedule is like, I’m not even sure how to console you.

I’ve always gotten the idea from hearing Philly-based grunge sludgers Fight Amp that they’re constantly in a state of disrepair. Only there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a constant grind, a process of work and tiring tasks that raise their ire and make their music that much more agitated. You certainly can hear that on their new “Constantly Off,” a tight, economical release that seems to understand the idea of terminal frustration. It’s the follow-up to 2012’s blistering “Birth Control” and their fourth record overall. This is six tracks in under a half hour, and through it all, they keep finding a way to hit the right buttons and channel into what anger and annoyances have you down. The dudes in the band—bassist/vocalist Jon DeHart, guitarist/vocalist Mike McGinnis, and drummer Dan Smith–bludgeon you hard with grimy noise that could remind of bands as varied as the Melvins, Nirvana, Torche, and the Jesus Lizard.

Fight Amp cover“Ex Everything” starts things up with charging guitars and noises hanging in the air, with the vocals coming in as wailed cries. The tempo is muddy and filthy, though it has a bit of catchiness to it to throw you off guard, and it ends in a flurry of punches. “Survival Is Strange” has sweltering punishment brewing, feeling a little like Black Flag at times, and the band works hard to lather and smother you as you fight for a clean gasp of air. The song is short and to the point, feeling abrasive every step of the way. “Leveling in a Dream” feels humid and thick, with harsh yells over the thick atmosphere, and an agitated, annoyed chorus that pounds home their point. There is a nice bit of melody mixed in for some variation, though it’s never at the expense of the overall crunch.

“You Don’t Wanna Live Forever” is the perfect downer of a song title, and it’s a harsher cut that drives right into the tar pits. There is some singing over the chorus, which is the calmest element of the song, but otherwise it’s a propulsive, crushing will-killer. “I Perceive Reptoids” seems a little silly from the title, but don’t go in expecting a joke or you’ll get smothered. The thick bass erupts, mangling everything, and thing get weird and psychotic later, especially with the bizarre yet sobering shout of, “My screen is empty and I still can’t look away!” “Happy Joyful Life” sets the opposite tone of its title, which obviously is tongue-buried-in-cheek brutal. The bass crushes, while the guitars charge up the riffs, and the vocals come off like barks. As the song goes on, it gets faster and nastier, packed with aggression and anxiety, feeling like a truck being driven, on purpose, off the edge of a cliff, where only consuming fire will be the master. It’s a skin-gashing end to a pretty irritated collection of songs.

So yeah, maybe you’re pissed off or disillusioned or both, but you’re not alone. “Constantly Off” is right there next to you, bitching about conditions and getting fed up with life’s constant, unforgivable cycles. Fight Amp always have had a knack for understand and reinterpreting that psychotic, negative energy. They drag you through the gutter with them and bring you out on the other side a little more calloused than you were before.

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