The Chisel are the UK punk band you need right now

Armed with riotous new album What A Fucking Nightmare, London mob The Chisel are taking punk back to its no-frills, in-your-face roots. Look out...

The Chisel are the UK punk band you need right now
Huw Baines
Nick Suchak

Plain-spoken honesty is an underrated commodity in music – we tend to lionise poets and impressionists, almost taking for granted writers who tell us, right to our faces, what they’re living through. The Chisel’s Cal Graham won’t let you make that mistake. On the band’s new album What A Fucking Nightmare he is all working-class spirit, last-orders carnage and bloody emotion, with the band’s mix of hardcore, UK82 punk and pub rock rattling fillings alongside him.

“I'm not the most philosophical person, I'm not that smart,” he tells us, on the morning of the album’s release, observing that he’d never written a single lyric before starting The Chisel. Everything Cal pens is last-minute, giving it an edge of vitality and veracity that’s only amped up by his vein-bursting delivery. “I only try to be myself,” he continues. “So what you get is basically the way I talk.”

Cal settled in London more than a decade ago – he’s originally from Blackpool – and in 2020 formed The Chisel with guitarist Charlie Manning-Walker (of Chubby And The Gang) and drummer Nicholas Sarnella, whose work together in Violent Reaction and Arms Race had propelled the New Wave of British Hardcore in the mid-2010s.

Produced by long-time champion Jonah Falco, from Canadian hardcore greats Fucked Up, and released by the unimpeachable London label La Vida Es Un Mus, their first seven-inch set out a similar template by steering into rabble-rousing Oi!-inflected hardcore.

“We only ever really intended to do that record,” Cal says. But, decent feedback ringing in their ears, instead it was rapidly followed by another single featuring Not The Only One, a melodic bolt from the blue that reshaped their sound in time for their 2021 debut LP Retaliation to become one of the most thrilling UK punk releases in years.

Blending face-rearranging rippers such as the straight-ahead Fuck 'Em with some of their most hook-driven songs to date – hat-tip to the electric Living For Myself – What A Fucking Nightmare pushes further in all directions. It’s, perhaps, The Chisel as they’ve sounded in their own head for some time. “Maybe we stood out a little bit because normally a band just sticks to the hard stuff or sticks to the melodic stuff,” Cal says.

Cal is an open book, down to discussing what happens next for the band. They might have just returned from the U.S. having played their biggest headline set to date at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, but they’re not looking any further ahead than their next show, next song. “None of us are making a living out of this, I doubt we ever will,” he says. “I’m 37 years old. We all have full-time jobs. I get imposter syndrome sometimes. What is a band screaming this and that doing playing festivals with Slipknot in America?”

Once you’ve heard them, you’ll know. What A Fucking Nightmare is a certified rager from a band with experience on their side and nothing to lose. “There's no smokescreen,” Cal says of their music. He’s right. See for yourselves...

What A Fucking Nightmare is out now via Pure Noise Records

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