Premonition review | White Lung give a defiant, thrilling, dizzying farewell

White Lung's first album in six years seems set to be their last. If this sadly proves to be the case, it's a terrific way to bow out. Find our Premonition review below.

White Lung

They say that all good things come to an end. Yet it’s not always easy for us to buy into this notion in an age of never-ending tours, never-ending movie franchises, and political careers that are seemingly never over. It seems that neither good nor bad things actually, well, end. Not really.

It’s been twelve years since Canadian band White Lung set a small hardcore fire with their self-titled debut. Across three further albums, including 2014’s Deep Fantasy heralded by Rolling Stone as one of ‘The 40 Greatest Punk Albums of All-Time’ – they have ploughed an uncompromising, but enticing furrow. Through a cocktail of buzzsaw guitar riffs and pummelling drums, vocalist Mish BarberWay has articulated tales of woe, drama, and despair. White Lung’s music has always felt urgent, vital, and cinematic in scope.

Earlier this year, the three-piece announced the welcome arrival of fifth album Premonition: their first for six years. With the good news came the bad. Confirming that the long wait for new material was not due to pained gestation – the record was actually the fruit of work boxed away four years ago, they said – they explained that they have all “grown and changed so much” since they last spent time in the studio together. We felt like this record was the right endpoint and we are happy the songs will finally be released, they concluded. So that looks to be that, then.

Premonition might be their final outing, but it’s safe to say that their impending split is not apparent in the finished product. Neither sentimental nor soft, Premonition is a continuation of what’s come before; ten tracks that surge along at breakneck speed, chopping down like an ice pick. It’s defiant, thrilling, a dizzying dose of their expertly crafted and delightfully charred punk. Those who perceived 2016’s Paradise as a slight smoothing of their hardcore edges could find similar fault here. Those who are less militant about such things will concede that this is only by a whisker anyway.

Opener ‘Hysteric’ is all rumble and thunder, underpinned by an anthemic chorus that corrals the mayhem. ‘High on the hillside/I nearly died there with you’ Barber-Way sings remorsefully on the high-tempo charge of ‘Tomorrow’. ThroughoutPremonition, White Lung evidence a distillation of the winning formula that has worked so well on earlier releases.

True to form, this final release is a short, sharp shock to the system – like a shot of adrenaline pumped into the system. As usual, Anne-Marie Vassiliou’s drums provide a formidable platform, secure as an iron girder, and as relentless as a broken and dripping tap. They form a canvass for Mish BarberWay’s evocative, and provocative, lyrics. Barber-Way even offers a rare glimpse of vulnerability in ‘Mountain’: ‘From way up high/We’ll laugh at the rest/And I’ll live my life/Hiding in your chest’, she implores to her lover.

White Lung Premonition

Elsewhere, standouts include lead single ‘Date Night’, ‘If You’re Gone’ and the closer, ‘Winter’: three instances where their precision-built tunes match energy with inspiration. And the descending guitar line midway through ‘Bird’ is a delicious thing to wrap your ears around.

While there’s no guitar riff that’s as singularly memorable as, say, ‘Atlanta’, from the band’s eponymous outing, guitarist Kenneth William’s knack for high-wire guitar heroics is on ample display once more. His lead lines slash through each track, dancing between a primitive chug and tremolo-picking virtuosity. Much of it drenched in delicious reverb. It’s highly intoxicating.

A wise man once said that the art of attending a party is knowing the right time to leave. As bittersweet as this final curtain may be, time will likely prove that White Lung have cemented their legacy by stepping off the stage. They have left a mark and then some. If Premonition is to be their full-stop, then it’s quite the swansong.

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