Churubusco, Indiana’s F***ing Panthers have a penchant for four-letter words, punk rock bravado and metal guitar blasts. They want you to know they’re mad, and they have delivered their list of complaints inside a new album titled Learning to Die. The first thing that hits you on Learning to Die is a four-count on a hi-hat. Then a punk rock blast of guitar and drums that would fit nicely on a sampler of early 80s D.C. bands like Black Flag. Like Black Flag, F***ing Panthers scream the punk rock manifesto through a bloodied and beaten megaphone while winning metalheads over with a sonic blast of fuzzed out guitar noise, making Greg Ginn very proud I would imagine. In other words, they walk the fine line between hardcore and metal. And they do it well.
First track, “Call of the Panther,” is a bruised and beaten rocker exclaiming to the world, “Life is a sexually transmitted disease / Humanity is a cancer.” Lead screamer Josh T delivers these words as if his, or our lives depend on it. “Nightmare” starts out with a guitar riff that would be comfortable on any Mastodon album, but by the chorus a pop sensibility shines through the dirge and shows there’s more to these F***ing Panthers than whiplash tempos and a middle finger to mediocrity.
There’s a fine line with punk rock and metal. Too many times the barrage of riffage and punk rock immediacy can become rather grating after the first three or four tracks. The key is to keep it interesting and relatable to the listening audience. The song “A New Beginning” is this album’s and this band’s shining moment. Starting out with a slower tempo, but with amps still very much cranked to 11, the song grabs you from the start. But halfway through a piano appears, pulling you out of the song and whatever you thought you knew this band was about. It’s a true glimpse into what these five guys are truly capable of. Shine on, you F***ing Panthers.