Expertly placed feedback has always been a load-bearing cornerstone of quality rock ’n’ roll. Jimi Hendrix used it to accent his psychedelic freakouts, the Who abused it to accompany the destruction of their backline, and Nirvana let it drip off their slouching apathy. Feedback commands attention so the real message can be delivered to a captive audience.
Maximum Mad understands the importance of shrill and groaning feedback. On their debut EP, Dear Enemy, Portland’s newest loud rock act laces the sonic device through six substantial tracks, perfectly accentuating their eye-bulging fury.
With Dear Enemy, Maximum Mad will be instantly lumped into the bearded-and-tattooed rock movement Portland’s been known for in recent years. The comparison isn’t too far off. Yes, Maximum Mad could share the stage with bands like Red Fang or Lord Dying, but their musings have more of a murky catharsis to them. If Red Fang’s riffs were introduced to the ugliness of Unsane or Botch, the result would sound a lot like Maximum Mad.
Dear Enemy lurches and cranks like an archaic, monolithic piece of machinery from end to end. On opening track “Affluenza,” vocalist/bassist Jayson Smith wails like he’s trying to do irreparable damage to his vocal cords, while his bass rumbles like it’s strung with cables that should be suspending a bridge. “Active Aggressive” shares some of the same qualities, but with some dissonant, creepy, sociopathic riffs by guitarists Mark Bassett and David Mullis. On “Unmanned” and “Weird Hand,” drummer Travis Wisner’s bombardment could be likened to drunken boxing—slightly off-balance, but somehow punishing and precise.
Whether Maximum Mad’s really angry or not is completely irrelevant. They could all be gentle angels with hearts of gold, but even angels need to stand in a field and scream at the heavens every once in a while. Dear Enemy is that cathartic explosion.