The 10 Best Bay Area Albums of 2018: Adrenochrome, 'Buzz or Howl Sessions'

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Adrenochrome, 'Buzz or Howl Sessions.'
Adrenochrome, 'Buzz or Howl Sessions.'

We're posting our favorite Bay Area albums of 2018 every weekday through Dec. 14. Check here to see who else made the list.

Oakland’s Adrenonchrome is a modern-day post-punk supergroup comprised of members from local bands such as False Figure, Ötzi, and Cruz de Navajas. Their debut album, Buzz and Howl Sessions (Near Dark Records), is a six-track deathrock explosion clocking in at under 17 minutes. The rapid-fire EP is both a sharp shock to the system and a magickal mystery tour of the sacred and arcane.

With Brianne Hanshaw’s fierce drums as a driving force, Alex Rivas’ looming bass lines anchor the project and Andres Ruiz’ pinwheeling guitar riffs launch it into the stratosphere. Adrenochrome draws influence from decades of gothic gloom. You might hear traces of old Bauhaus in the bass line one moment and Christian Death in the guitar the next. Adrenochrome’s lead vocalist (and founder of Near Dark Records), Gina Marie, maintains a gravely howl mixed low, lending the music a rough-edged texture. 

Lyrically, the songs hew closely to the somber themes favored by the still-strong darkwave and dark punk scene embedded in Oakland. With the downcast "shadows of a forgotten time" in "Fool’s Paradise" and the frenetic struggle against mind control in "Shattered Frames," Adrenochrome’s explorations give voice to the rage and frustration of the nonconformist class, without devolving too deeply into the outright maudlin.

A recurring theme (if themes can be said to recur in a 16-minute album!) is that of magick, which, like deathrock, has been enjoying something of an East Bay revival. Two songs, "Celebration" and "Burn Away," can be received as transmissions from this realm. Co-written with Akiko Sampson—co-founder of Ötzi, Gina Marie’s other band—both unambiguously describe states of ritual and revelation. Each embrace the forces outside of us that contribute to the power within—a power that pushes us to bravely face the future without abandoning the past.