Article By: Shaun Katz ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
For those who were in search of an alternative to the rehashed and often overhyped Seattle sound of the ’90s, there were a number of albums that dropped like sledgehammers, without any accompanying limelight.
Beyond the land of flannel and Rory Gallagher lookalikes, certain bands not only explored new sounds but occasionally released albums that would become a reference point for an entire genre. These were from the more incendiary punk bands like Jawbox or Orange 9mm, who were virtually ignored by the mainstream at the height of grunge-mania. Quicksand‘s ‘Slip’ is a key treasure from this category.
‘Slip’ has been an album increasingly revered since its release. In fact, fans of the Post-Hardcore scene might view ‘Slip’ in the same way that the mainstream viewed Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ or Soundgarden’s ‘Bad Motorfinger’.
The album’s impact, in hindsight, was enormous, and many of the things that make it great also relegate the album to obscurity. Quicksand‘s début LP represents that coming of age moment when punk came full circle and showed everyone that, for better or worse, it could compete with the ‘big dogs’ (i.e., the mainstream) in a spectacular way!
‘Slip’ takes all the uniform ferocity of its hardcore roots and reconfigures it, by way of four monstrous players who take a few cues from bands who were already well outside of the box (ie. The Pixies, Fugazi), creating an album so completely unique, that it immediately makes a statement that continues to resonate 25 years later.
It’s hard to find an album that compares to it. While ‘Slip’ shares all the signature sounds of 90’s Post-Hardcore, it’s probably also not a million miles from Tool’s early releases. The difference is that Quicksand sounds like pure punk frustration; louder, far more focused, yet far less accessible.
With its deep bass and grinding guitars, ‘Slip’ has a knack for creating profoundly heavy hooks around dissonance. The opening song ‘Fazer’ is Slip‘s most streamlined moment before it becomes apparent that, in spite of Steven Haigler and Don Fury’s bold, powerful production, it’s really an acquired taste.
A prime example of Quicksand‘s greatness comes to light on tracks like the cerebral Unfulfilled, with spare guitar harmonics weaving through a booming bassline. Flashes of Jane’s Addiction come to mind at times, with Unfulfilled seeming like their own version of Pigs In Zen.
The main difference is Quicksand trades in the arty pretensions for straight edge, street smarts that explode with unusual blasts of guitar work from Tom Capone. Walter Schreifels’ shouted vocals, in addition to the sheer weight of the album, obscures the albums’ catchier moments, which in live shows reveal how the distinct lyrics lend themselves to sing-alongs.
Schreifels‘ guttural vocals often reinforce cynical punk sensibilities over melody. The vocals seem to just barely fit in against the wielding dissonance and occasional harmonics, circling around the monstrously heavy rhythm section. A lot of what we hear often feels like mismatched parts being glued together and somehow gelling, thanks to the juggernaut drumming of Alan Cage, and bassist Sergio Vega (also of the Deftones).
‘Slip’ is a fantastic sonic war of wills that speaks to the possibilities of the genre. Its sound is one of intense focus, rather than anger, even though it’s impressively heavy.
Quicksand was put on an odd array of package tours by their label, Polydor, who strangely assigned them as openers for bands ranging from White Zombie to the Offspring. Perhaps the only band that Quicksand was correctly paired with on tour was Helmet.
Quicksand went on to release one more album ‘Manic Compression‘, which I personally think was even better than ‘Slip’, but due to the poor mixing and recording of their follow-up, many fans were dissatisfied, making ‘Slip’ the stuff of unfulfilled legend.
The band has a new album coming soon, entitled ‘Interiors‘, on Epitaph Records. Set for release on November 15, 2017, you can listen to a couple of teaser tracks available via Quicksand‘s Bandcamp page, or streaming here.