Fucked Up need no real introduction, but for the uninitiated, they’re one of the few bands nowadays that seem to understand how to blend hardcore, experimental punk and art into a tantalizing listen.

This year is a good one for fans of Fucked Up, with not only a full-length follow-up to 2011’s David Comes To Life, but the sixth entry in their Zodiac series, titled Year of the Dragon. In keeping with the standards set by previous Zodiac EPs, the titular song is absolutely epic in content, if not in length. This time around, the accompaniment is two songs written and originally delivered by underground Toronto punk bands Cardboard Brains and The Ugly.

Just looking at the Between The Buried And Me-style length of  the title track is daunting. Clocking in at just over 18 minutes, it seamlessly flows from its slightly discord to a thundering romp featured in altered forms later on. The lead guitar line also gets slightly shifted about 11 minutes in when lead guitarist Mike Haliechuk plays in one time signature while the rest of the band plays in another, making for a beautiful contrast and a moment that begs for repeated listens. Vocalist Damian Abraham is as vicious as ever, his signature roars perfectly at home over his band’s stirring soundscapes.

In stark contrast, the covers are extremely lo-fi and as sloppy as punk rock can be. Remember, punk rock is not meant to be perfect, and these covers take that to heart. Accidental string sounds and wrong notes make for audible ear candy in “I Wanna Be A Yank,” while “Disorder” begins with Abraham yowling before losing his ability to enunciate actual syllables later in the song.

Hardcore and art can be combined for amazing results, and Fucked Up have done it yet again with Year of the Dragon.

Year of the Dragon is out now on Tankcrimes.

Rating: 5/5 Stars