Satan is Real Again, Again — the sophomore effort from Joint D≠, Charlotte's premier punk trio — improves upon its predecessor in ways that would have previously seemed impossible.
Last year's Strike Gently churned relentlessly. Nick Goode's gnawing riffs and Thomas Berkau's pile-driving bass combined with the whirlwind tumult of drummer Michael Houseman to form an unflinching onslaught. There were no appreciable pauses, just 11 bracing blasts, each more fearsome than the last.
The new record refines Joint D≠'s strengths, boasting cleaner production and a more balanced mix. The band's attack is sharper, fleshed out with cataclysmic crescendos and dynamic instrumental interplay that highlights the players' distinct personalities. Strike Gently overpowered its victims, sprinting so fiercely that you couldn't help but fall in line. Spanning nine songs and 17 minutes, Satan is leaner and more precise. Each song cuts to the quick, enthralling listeners from beginning to end instead of pounding them into submission.
The intro to "Never Elaborate" ripples with power. Goode bends tones mightily as Berkau and Houseman muster a clobbering groove. The blitzkrieg that follows makes the repeated passage feel like a giant pulling back on his slingshot and preparing to fire. The tension is tremendous.
Elsewhere they allow their nuances to shine. The title track begins with marvelous juxtaposition, Houseman's jazzy skitters underpinning Berkau's burly bluster. Such tricks help the trio push past three minutes without overstaying their welcome.
Joint D≠ has evolved quickly without forsaking its feral intensity. Last year, the band arrived as one of the state's finest punk bands. After Satan, such caveats hardly seem necessary.