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Carcinogen Racehorse releases record in wake of frontman’s death

Robert+Young+of+Carcinogen+Racehorse+plays+to+an+audience+of+Oklahoma+City+college+students+in+the+summer+of+2016.+The+band%27s+written+material+for+%22Holocene%22+was+finished+at+this+time%2C+but+had+yet+to+be+mixed+for+the+album.+
Robert Young of Carcinogen Racehorse plays to an audience of Oklahoma City college students in the summer of 2016. The band's written material for

Robert Young of Carcinogen Racehorse plays to an audience of Oklahoma City college students in the summer of 2016. The band's written material for "Holocene" was finished at this time, but had yet to be mixed for the album.

Matt Cooper

Matt Cooper

Robert Young of Carcinogen Racehorse plays to an audience of Oklahoma City college students in the summer of 2016. The band's written material for "Holocene" was finished at this time, but had yet to be mixed for the album.

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Standouts can be rare in the Wichita and greater-Kansas music communities. But in Carcinogen Racehorse’s July 7 release “Holocene,” a listener of the Great Plains musical presence can find hard rock clout in earnest.

The album — which comes as a posthumous release in the wake of lead singer and guitarist Rob Young’s December death — is a raw project that exemplifies how stripped down and original a conventional rock band can be in 2017.

Carcinogen Racehorse rehearses before a show during the summer of 2015. After this photo was captured, the group packed up and traveled to Hutchinson to perform at a benefit gig.

Before any critical acclaim or vituperation can be applied, one must acknowledge the sheer volume of time and effort that went into the album’s completion. From start to finish — beginning in 2015 and ending this month — the material in “Holocene” was written chiefly by Young and bass player Breck Adkins.

Not only did the record take time to finish, it also played to more than a handful of audiences before its completion. As far back as the summer of 2015, CRH played tracks from “Holocene” to the local dive crowds and house partiers across Wichita and south-central Kansas.

After finishing the recording and mastering through Luke Wallace (of Peck) and Red Cat Recording, CRH released their singular effort through This Ain’t Heaven Recording Concern. The release is thus far available for purchase only in a digital format, but the band said all of the album’s proceeds will be given to Young’s family.

Now, the album itself. Even though CRH no longer exists, their compilation serves to the ear as a sort of recapturing of the grunge spirit that the Kansas music scene has seemed to have lost in recent years. The opening track “Dave Grohl in Paradise” is a fitting embodiment of this idea.

Adkins and Young perform before an audience in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in the summer of 2015.

Young’s vocals howl with resentment and frustration. Singing — in belts reminiscent of a mix of Cobain, Aukerman, and Thurston Moore — Young’s lyrics blend with Adkin’s bass lines in an unadulterated way that draws the listener in. The thudding basso continuo track on the opener stands out as original in and of itself.

This mix of deliciously harsh, thickly laid guitar and bass tracks can be found throughout the album, including “Terraform,” “Flesh Farm,” and “Extremophile.”

“Holocene” is not, however, merely a record based solely on grunge riffs and raucous screams. Certain songs contact a level of legitimate melody that serve as axioms of concern for the possible meaningless and frailty of human existence in the face of addictions and vice.

For example, “Get Clean” contains a verse in which Young professes to know of his frightfully uncertain place on Earth:

Daylight, so bright, burns
Kaleidoscopes to my mind
Until it’s dark.
Burn now, somehow
I’m hiding underneath
The clouds until we die.

 

This is followed by an interlude in which Young tells us he is no longer sure whether or not there is a meaning for life at all.

Living this life is a tragedy.
No one knows what it means.

 

With heavy guitar, bass, and drum tracks backing the lyrics of nearly every song on the album, “Holocene” lives up to the expectations of a project that was so long in the making. The band’s members — Adkins and Young alongside drummer Brice Herman and guitarist Josh Lago — have created a record that is seminal.

The record does have its flaws. It’s a bit musically terse. With only nine tracks and vocal mixes that could be considered a little flat, “Holocene” is by no means perfect.

However, the most important thing about “Holocene” is its originality. As a standout, straight-forward, hard rock effort, success was reached. That, mixed with absolutely solid musicianship all around, makes CRH’s effort worthy of multiple listens.

“Holocene” can be streamed here for free.

1 Comment

One Response to “Carcinogen Racehorse releases record in wake of frontman’s death”

  1. Breck Void Adkins on July 11th, 2017 5:31 pm

    Great article. Thanks for listening and taking time to remember to CRH.

    [Reply]

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