Some things never go out of style. Emerging from the London punk scene with a high energy blend of Oi! hooks and hardcore stomp, The Chisel have a sound that’s as timeless as it is exhilarating. Now on their sophomore album, What A F*cking Nightmare, the band somehow cranks the dial further into the red with a whopping 16 tracks that are even more aggressive and even more anthemic.
The Chisel formed in 2020 out of the same pool of talented friends and collaborators that bore bands like Violent Reaction, Arms Race, and Chubby & The Gang. After a series of singles and EPs, the band–whose current line up is vocalist Cal Graham, guitarists Luke Younger and Charlie Manning Walker, bassist Momo, and drummer Lee Munday released their debut full-length, Retaliation, in 2021 and secured their reputation as one of the most exciting new punk bands coming out of the UK. With more attention often comes more pressure, but The Chisel approached their second album with something very key in mind: “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” says Younger, explaining, “after we recorded the first record we just didn’t stop writing. So by the time it came out we already had even more new songs.” That prolific streak didn’t stop and the result is What A F*cking Nightmare–a behemoth of a punk record that doubles down on everything that makes The Chisel such a compelling band.
What A F*cking Nightmare grabs the listener by the head and doesn’t let go. Recorded by James Atkinson and produced by Jonah Falco (Home Front, High Vis, Chubby & The Gang), the album hones The Chisel into the keenest and most effective version of themselves where the hooks are bigger and the bite is sharper. The heart of their sound draws on elements of old school hardcore, UK82, and other corners of aggressive punk, but it’s The Chisel’s ability to pack a melodic punch that makes them stand out from the pack. Graham’s biting-yet-tuneful delivery is key to the band’s ability to swing from eye-bulging street punk ragers to triumphant singalongs that even the most faint-of-heart rock and roll fan couldn’t help but enjoy.
After its ominous introductory title track, What A F*cking Nightmare explodes from the speakers with a one-two attack that perfectly encapsulates The Chisel’s sonic dichotomy. Opener “No Gimmicks” kicks things off with 90 seconds of truly vitriolic punk and is quickly followed by “Cry Your Eyes Out,” which offers one of the most infectious refrains of the band’s entire catalog). “We definitely try to keep a balance,” Graham explains. “If we realize we have a lot of melodic songs, we’ll try to throw in a stomper or something. I think people like that chaos of going from a catchy song to a hard song and vice versa, and not knowing what they’re gonna get next.” Tracks like the blistering “Evil By Evil” or the primal “Tomorrow” manage to be as memorable as they are menacing, while “What Do You Mean” or “Cuts Like A Knife” are packed with charged-up hooks and impressive production flourishes that still never sacrifice an ounce of grit. “With punk, hardcore, Oi!…you’re never gonna be completely clear of some of the cliches,” Younger says. “But we try to do certain things to separate ourselves a bit, to put our own twist on it.”
And The Chisel certainly do have something that’s distinct, something that’s rare but essential when it comes to making music in this tradition: they really mean it. There isn’t a single note of What A F*cking Nightmare that rings anything less than genuine. “I do it all very last minute,” Graham says of his lyric-writing process. “I need to have the pressure, I think that’s why it sounds so immediate. I always just try to keep things the exact same way I would chat with someone–just like a conversation.” His bluntly powerful lyricism cuts through across the album as he sizes up the world around him, painting vignettes of everyday frustrations, class divisions, exploitive authority figures, as well as the camaraderie that comes from finding like-minded people in an increasingly tumultuous world. “I’m not the most philosophical person,” he explains. “I don’t really write lyrics with hidden meanings, I just keep it to what I know, what I’ve experienced, what I see in my immediate vicinity. It’s about dickheads, working class people, punching people, getting punched…”
What A F*cking Nightmare is the kind of album that reminds listeners of all the things that are so impactful and enduring about punk music: there’s a vitality to these songs, tangible sweat, blood, and bootprints that leave a mark long after they’re done. As the final track “What I See” brings the album to a close with a rousing cacophony of blown-out guitars and a single piano chord being hammered like life depends on it, there’s absolutely no doubt that this is The Chisel’s world–and we’re just living in it.