The four members of Nequient sitting on bleachers
Credit: Nicolas Côté

Chicago’s Nequient hit the ground running in 2015 with the EP Infinite Regress. By the time of their 2018 full-length debut, Wolves at the Door, they’d solidified into a brutal, versatile metallic-hardcore unit. They’d also established their studio methods and favorite producers (Pete Grossman at Bricktop Recording), and they accumulated some DIY touring experience. The pandemic temporarily halted their activity, but the four-piece whetted appetites in November 2021 with another EP, Collective Punishment, two of whose four tracks are live recordings from 2019.

If the four-year wait for a new Nequient album dimmed anyone’s interest, Darker Than Death or Night should fire it up again. “Minotaur” starts with a rigorous D-beat rhythm anchored by drummer Chris Avgerin, with bassist Keenan Clifford riding shotgun; it builds into massive, menacing layers of hardcore, grindcore, thrash, and straight-up gnarly metal. “Consensual Hallucination” uses a stuttering stop-start to build up to a primal chant of resistance, and puts me in mind of the symbolic violence of a mosh-pit crowd hell-bent on catharsis. Many of Nequient’s lyrics are about the impossibility of escaping the panopticon of numbing media and manufactured consent, as well as the necessity to continually cultivate anger to bolster resistance. As exhausting as that sounds, the alternative—a blanked-out acceptance of the unacceptable—is even worse. The band can also conjure more personal moments of terror, as they do with the electrifying nervous energy of “Death Bridge,” which feels like driving a dangerous stretch of road. It explicitly nods to Metallica’s Cliff Burton, who died in a tour-bus crash in 1986: “Will any of us live to see the other side? / Will we go down like Cliff on this final ride?”

On “City Killer” guitarist Patrick Conahan shows off some of his tightest playing in fierce, constricted, escalating spirals. It’s also the album’s most unhinged-sounding track, striking fast with naked anger and then just as quickly ending. Darker Than Death or Night closes with the monumental “Golden Age of the Grift,” which features a blistering guitar solo and a roaring imprecation from front man Jason Kolkey: “Marks are everywhere in this bankrupt culture / And parasites to drain their last buck.” In this volatile day and age, it might not seem wise to deliberately incite rage, but Nequient’s fierce, well-crafted fury could snap you out of even the most deadening binge of fatalistic doomscrolling and get your heart focused on what matters again.

Nequient’s Darker Than Death or Night is available via Bandcamp.