Following full-length collaborations with Earth and Dis Fig, the Bug's Fire is a return to the guest-heavy format of the artist's previous apocalyptic masterpieces, London Zoo and Angels & Devils. Kevin Martin already used the name for a 2005 single, but Fire is always an appropriate title for his work, and this album especially smolders with burning fervor, even if it's not quite as noisy and bludgeoning as some of his mid-2000s material. Bookended by dark ambient pieces featuring dystopian spoken word performances by Martin's King Midas Sound partner Roger Robinson, the remainder of the album is filled with lurching, menacing bangers that recall various eras of the Bug's discography, featuring a cast of collaborators old and new. The first of three tracks with the infallible Flowdan, "Pressure" shares its name with the second Bug album, but sounds straight out of London Zoo, delivering rough ragga-step with anti-Babylon lyrics. Even better and more innovative is "Hammer," in which Flowdan declares there's "no light at the end of the tunnel" over drilling, heart-racing beats. "Demon" is swirling, siren-scraped dancehall similar to Martin's Razor X Productions days, and "Ganja Baby," a 2012 single released as part of the Bug's short-lived Acid Ragga series, curiously makes a reappearance here. Moor Mother sounds more aggressive on "Vexed" than she did on Wrecked, the 2019 effort by Martin and Justin Broadrick's Zonal project. Making reference to viral star Bhad Bhabie, FFSYTHO sounds equally playful and grim over the tolling bells of "How bout dat." Manga Saint Hilare details the struggles of the working class on "High Rise": "We can't take the high road, we just screw face and explode." Tracks like "Clash," "War," and "Bomb" all maintain battle imagery, in multiple senses (musical, political, personal), and Fire as a whole is steadfast in its fury and perseverance.
by Paul Simpson