On their second album, 2014's The Hum, Hookworms still haven't done much to become user-friendly. They still go by their initials (MB, MJ, JN, SS, and JW, in case you're keeping track), the album cover is mysterious and lacks any identifying words, and their songs are similar to their first album, Pearl Mystic, in that they are raging, unwieldy slabs of noise and energy that almost seem to be holding on for dear life, kicking and screaming, as they are forced into the listener's ear canals. As in the case of that album, the sensation here is not unpleasant. In fact, it's loud enough, kinetic enough, and violent enough that there is a palpable sense of catharsis running through the album. Much of the tension and release comes from MJ's insane vocals, which make Johnny Whitney of Blood Brothers sound like he's placing an order for pizza; the rest comes from the guitars and drums being pummeled as much as being played. Like the last album did so well, the band again balances the moments of intense power with stretches of controlled fury and sometimes even calmness, all in the name of dynamics. This time out, the approach is a little more direct and less wrapped in mystery, with a couple songs having a straightforward punch that's almost punk (the rampaging "The Impasse") and/or hypnotic in motorik fashion ("Beginners"). This album's long, almost oceanic noise ballad "Off Screen" is easily the equal of anything on Pearl Mystic, and shows a little bit of progression to boot. The entire record is a small step forward from the sometimes unfocused sound of that first album, and really crystallizes the group's strong points in a way that's almost fun to listen to. What Hookworms might lack in image and clarity, they more than make up for by making music that isn't built to linger in the background. It demands attention and deserves it, too.