Let’s face it, these days it’s not easy to get surprised by a band; just with the sheer amount of music in current circulation, on would expect more originality, contrast and diversity. Occasionally it does happen, and Flattbush is one of those bands. It’s heavy as hell, but it would be difficult to find a metal band that sounds like this, or shares it’s politics. It could be called punk, though it bears very little resemblance to that style of white power pop that currently lays claim to the genre. It’s feral, it’s rebellious in an almost dangerous way and doesn’t lend itself well to Myspace or Facebook marketing. But more than that, what sets Flattbush aside from a lot of others in it’s class, is that it’s for real. And, even in it’s most savage moments, it has hooks.
Flattbush is primal power without the polish; their arrangements are as unorthodox as they are mind-blowing; their instruments are their weapons and their methods employ the innovation and efficiency of a jungle guerilla. The songs are not only sung in English, but also in Tagalog, and Kapampangan–native languages of the Philippines. The inclusion of their native tongue increases the tension–this music was made for this language; you can get the vibe even if you don’t understand the words–but let’s face it, and underlines the authentic nature of it’s no-holds-barred political invective and confrontational themes of social injustice.
Flattbush is no ordinary band because they have no ordinary story. Founding members of the band, brothers Arman and Enrico Maniago, born into a family of political activists, remember marching with their father in the Philippines during their very early childhood. Abruptly, in their early teens, the brothers found themselves as US immigrants. Language barrier notwithstanding, junior high in Southern California came with a heavy culture shock. And so, like many American kids do, they discovered the power of musical instruments and worked out their frustrations and contradictions with music, but in their case, through a different set of lenses than their peers. At first it was just noise and words, flowing out of their principled rage… ” fuck you uncle sam / only lightning is unrequited / you cannot destroy the fight of hungry people / advance the people’s war.” These words became lyrics, the songs took a life of their own, and by the time the Maniago boys made it to Hight School, Flattbush was formed.
In 2003, they recorded and released their first album “Smash the Octopus” on Koolarrow Records, and toured the US for the first time. This lineup included high school buddy Bradley Walther on guitar, and drummer Ray Banda. This album, and and excellent press reaction (including a 4K review in Kerrang! by Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway, no less) established tthem as a national act. 2006 market their second effort, with the album “Seize the Time”.It also marked the addition of current drummer Joe Luevano, a Flattbush fan and self-taught master of the skins, who has since proved to become an invaluable member of the team. Creative differences, however, led to the departure of Brad and the addition of Hector Lopez on guitar. The shows that followed included a West Coast tour with Fear Factory, and shows with Mike Patton, Brujeria, Asesino and Napalm Death.
Their latest effort, “Otomatik Attak!” comes in the wake of their two previous releases This milestone is the result of two solid years of tooling, re-tooling, improvising, and perfecting– with the intent pack more power and ferocity by any means necessary. And they have succeed in spades, on a bunker buster of an album. With guitar parts reminiscent of classic punk in “Uncle Sam” and the AK-47-ish beat of the snare in “Otomatik Attak!”, the listener is treated to a caffeine boost without the crash. Even the funky bass riffs in “Bureaucrat Capitalism” are shattered by alternating shards of scraping vocals amid the agitation of megaphone chants. Special guest vocalist Brenda Chavelas of Sin Remedio takes the reins in pure Spanish with “Descontrol”, a radical call to arms.
In the end, it’s still classic Flattbush, and that’s probably the best way to describe it. Classic but better. All in all, this album brings bears a strange resemblance to metal, punk, and noise. This is definitely not for everyone, a message as uncompromising as this is sure to provoke reaction, but kudos for them to have the balls to say it and stand by it. But the bottom line is: if you think you’ve heard it all before, “Otomatik Attak!” will prove you wrong. And if you are already a Flattbush fan, this one will make you proud.