Paranoid punks Half Mast warn their audience of society’s demise while celebrating the chaos that comes with the process.

You might never have heard of Half Mast, but that’s not because they’re some high-brow lo-fi band—a certain level of anonymity is expected from a group that sings about being constantly watched by security cameras and inundated by government mind-control plots. Despite releasing a few EPs and singles over the years, the Amherst-based punk band has mostly kept a low profile, playing sets in the underground scenes of Western and Central Massachusetts. Don’t let their eccentric opinions fool you; Half Mast have serious punk chops and even experiment with ska-punk and surf-rock at certain points in their first LP, Who Killed The World?

Given their DIY roots, it should be no surprise that the recording quality on Half Mast’s first LP is a bit rough around the edges. However, this release is of a much higher production caliber than their previous releases and that jump should be commended. Previous popular tracks from the band include the ever-topical single, “Event 201,” released last February in a manic paranoid state about the impending COVID-19 outbreak, and their debut EP, Some Songs, featuring the epic ska-punk barnburner, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Half Mast is also one of the flagship (pun partially intended) bands of the Electric Skeleton recording collective, a group of like-minded punks who regularly collaborate to deliver routine face-melting punk rock. Other bands involved with Electric Skeleton include Wichita Hangman, Acrimonia, Boring Girl, and Dumpster Dicks.

On Who Killed The World?, the band wastes no time in delving into the album’s titular question. On “Blinking Red Lights,” and “American Guns,”  the band makes aggressive, in-your-face jabs at Big Brother and the military-industrial complex. “American Guns” features a ska riff that provides a welcome respite from the usual brain-rattling guitars on the album. Wichita Hangman and Acrimonia vocalist Ruby Gruesome steps in on “Blinking Red Lights” and delivers a knockout vocal performance sure to bring any government critic to a revolutionary fervor.

Beyond anti-government sentiment, it’s clear that Half Mast isn’t like many other DIY punk acts. They deliver listeners a healthy dose of doomsday-preacher-esque nihilism with “Digging our Tombs,” which could easily be confused with an old Dick Dale song with its spring reverb-drenched guitar riffs if it weren’t for the lyrics lamenting over the end times. “What the F*ck am I Looking For?” features frontman James Bondage’s growling vocals smacking the listener in the face. The band even experiments with a sound that could be described as funky on “Ghost of D. Boon” with an over-the-top guitar and bass riff that listeners just can’t help but bob their head to. They understand that to write a good punk record, you need to do more than just play power-chords really fast and scream into a microphone. They balance their anger with technical expertise and meaningful lyrics, while experimenting with different sounds to break up the album and keep listeners on their toes.

Sometimes, an album just fits perfectly, a poignant testament to the period of its release. Who Killed the World? is a perfect example, delivering a raucous criticism of America’s political climate and distrust in the government. In the end, one must wonder who really killed the world, and at the end of the penultimate track of the album, Half Mast answers succinctly: “You did!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.