The jaded cynic might take a look at the UK’s current crop of punk bands and ask what it actually has to do with “punk”? There’s pace and melody but not a lot of provocative lyrics addressing the world at large. The optimist may call it self-expression, surely a definitive feature of punk rock. What’s needed is an album to unite cynics and optimists, and Guildford quintet Darko might have made it with ‘Bonsai Mammoth’.
Certainly, pace and melody is not lacking in here by any stretch. Once the dueling guitar charge is set into motion on opener ‘Life Forms’, the album is a non-stop ride of razor wire adrenaline recalling a lifetime listening to NOFX and A Wilhelm Scream records. More striking is the intricacy of the lead guitar work found in songs like ‘Set in Our Ways’, containing a bridge that reveals cues from Canadian tech-wizards Protest the Hero.
Above the scuzzy delivery, frontman Dan Smith is a lyrical observer whose weathered vocals add conviction to his delivery. Offering an unease with an ignorant population and a ferocious ruling class, songs like ‘In the Company of Wolves’ is a warning to the public of being used and deprived of their “right to survive.” However, Smith often holds out a helping hand to loved ones, asking “Will you tell me if there’s something wrong, will you tell me if there’s something getting you down?” on ‘Just a Short Line’.
There’s enough reasons why ‘Bonsai Mammoth’ could unite legions of punk fanatics. It may not be a revolutionary record, and it wears most of its influences proudly on it’s sleeve, but there’s a believability and urgency with Darko that shines through constantly. And any good punk record should always have that upfront.
‘Bonsai Mammoth’ by Darko is released on February 3rd on Lockjaw Records (UK) / Bird Attack (US).
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)