It's just as well Shihad's debut album was never released on vinyl when it came out in 1993. Back then, vinyl was a format cast off in favour of the mighty CD and, as a result, records were flimsy. It certainly wouldn't have done justice to beautifully brutal songs like opener Factory. But 20 years on, and with the resurgence of records and thicker, more beefy slabs of waxy goodness, this vinyl-only release for Record Store Day on April 20 reveals the songs in all their rugged and grand glory.
Before I go on, I have to say though it's probably not Shihad's best album (Killjoy wins that, if you ask me), it's my favourite album of theirs because after the bogan fix of debut EP Devolve, the four Wellington lads revealed a more mature and unique sound on Churn. But it was still ruthless and uncompromising music. And also, beneath the album's often bleak exterior, there was a melodicism and epic beauty that would come through in their later work and help make them the career band they are.
Recorded with Killing Joke frontman and producer Jaz Coleman (who is also producing the band's upcoming album) at Parnell's York Street Studio, it was financed by Shihad themselves (although soon-to-be record label Wildside advanced them $5000 after it was finished).
The Killing Joke influence comes through on Churn, along with elements of the haunting and heavy atmospherics of the Skeptics, and the wild shredding and chaotic abandon of 80s heavy metal bands like Metallica and Slayer. But Shihad made it into a sound all of their own and the nine songs on Churn are a thrilling, abrasive ride. And there are pivotal moments that stick out, from the bludgeoning and pummelling finale of Factory and the harrowing slaughter at the end of Fracture, to the sing-along chorus of Screwtop and the volatility and seething tension of Derail.
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But nothing beats Stations, with Jon Toogood's dramatic lines, "Salvation's gotta gun, no answers there for me, no sins left to pay, let's blow this guilt away", and the meditative groove that, midway through, escalates into a pure, red-blooded, heavy metal chug.
And after all these years, it's even better to have the album available - albeit in a very limited edition - on vinyl. So churn it up.
Verdict: Still classic 1993 debut out on vinyl for the first time