Tremulous: to display timidity or nervousness, or shake or quiver slightly. It's an odd word, one not used commonly in the modern English language – you're far more likely to come across it in James Joyce's Ulysses, for example, than in your average hardcore record. But here we are, with Western Addiction's new full-length, Tremulous, an album embodying the anxiety, dread, worry and anguish omnipresent in modern day America. Frontman Jason Hall puts a premium on the words associated with Western Addiction; every song tells a story, sometimes with uncomfortable specifics and every title and lyric is meant to resonate with the listener on a different level.
While the San Francisco band's sophomore effort comes nearly 12 years after their debut, Cognicide, don't think they have grown out of hardcore. Tremulous rips its way through 11 explosive tracks, delivering a consistent sound strongly rooted in the past (picture an alternate universe where Milo Aukerman, Greg Ginn and Fugazi's rhythm section formed a band) that is plenty aggressive ("Ditch Riders," "Masscult, Vulgarians and Entitlement") and surprisingly melodic ("Righteous Lightning," "Honeycreeper"). It sounds like the same band that made Cognicide, just older, wiser – but still pissed off.
A large part of that consistency can be attributed to the band's current form, which consists of founding members Hall on vocals, Ken Yamazaki (also of Dead To Me) on guitar and Chad Williams on drums, as well as 2014 recruit Tony Teixeira moving to guitar. When it came time to record Tremulous, Western Addiction re-connected with original bassist, Tyson "Chicken" Annicharico, who was happy to assist his friends in the studio, adding another connection between the band's past and present. He even had a hand in shaping Tremulous' most intense song, the album-closing, five-and-a-half-minute dirge "Your Life Is Precious," written in tribute to friend (and Enemy You frontman) David Jones, whose unexpected death in 2015 had a profound effect on the band.
Tremulous fires off salvo after salvo of incendiary hardcore containing a surprising amount of melodicism, but producer Joey Cape isn't the only member of the Fat Wreck family to offer assistance: Propagandhi's Todd Kowalski delivers guest vocals on "Taedium." And while the bulk of the album was recorded with Cape and engineer Ian MacGregor in Los Angeles, the band finished up the vocals in San Francisco with Cape at Fat Mike's Motor Studios. Western Addiction turned to an unlikely name to mix Tremulous: Matt Bayles, an esteemed producer whose resume is two decades long and stacked with such major names in metal and hardcore as Mastodon, Botch and Isis.