BLEEDERS’ DIGEST: 2012 Q1 HARDCORE EDITION
Admittedly fatigued of writing long-form album reviews for close to 15 years, I created the Bleeders’ Digest feature here at MetalSucks with the idea of giving a small number of records a thoughtful capsule review, leaving it open to all contributors. (Corey Mitchell has dutifully refined it for his purposes, resulting in what I consider one of the site’s best recurring features.) As my scope intentionally narrowed to hardcore, I came to accept that the bulk of the artists I sought to cover were largely releasing music in non-LP formats, which led to the creation of my Inch Scraper column, of which I hope you have enjoyed the (almost) weekly installments.
Still, I haven’t felt comfortable essentially shunning the albums coming out of the vibrant hardcore scene. And so, I’ve decided that the sensible thing to do would be to regularly select a healthy handful of LPs suited for pithy and potent assessment. With the first quarter of 2012 behind us, I’m pleased to present a roundup of the hardcore albums that have hit my mailbox these past three months. Make sense? Good. On with it then…
The finest Southern Lord style band not signed to Southern Lord, Rise And Fall return in fine ferocious form with Faith (Deathwish). Face-ripping pit beasts like “Deceiver” and “Hidden Hands” abound, and the breakdown on “Dead Weight” is especially crushing. As with 2009’s Our Circle Is Vicious, the Belgians remain unashamed of their sonic diversity. “Things Are Different Now” veers into nihilistic noise rock terrain well trod by Today Is The Day or Unsane, while the hulking post-metal of “Faith / Fate” bulldozes the record to a triumphant close.
With cover artwork straight out of a Judas Priest fanboy’s sad fantasy, Sentenced To Life (Southern Lord) presents Seattle’s Black Breath as a band seemingly unable to avert its gaze from the rearview mirror. This substantial follow-up to their 2010 LP debut doubles down on their fetish-like commitment to crossover thrash, employing brawny riff after brawny riff with a few death metal dips and D-beat dabbles. The gauche power noodling of album closer “Obey” is too on-the-nose.
I wished more hardcore bands took cues from The Jesus Lizard and Butthole Surfers and rubbing that genie red and raw seems to have paid off. Slices slur, saunter, and slander their way through Still Cruising (Iron Lung), easily one of the best rock n’ roll records I’ve heard so far this year. There’s something momentous and muscular driving cuts like “Trying To Make A Living” and “Greensleeves.” Notably, “Horse Race” is like “Then Comes Dudley” for the 21st century. I’m left utterly breathless.
At a modest 44 minutes long, why does Wisdom In Chains‘ latest, The Missing Links (I Scream), feel twice as long as its running time? Could it be the three cuts that gratuitously breach the six-minute mark or the uniform banality of the material? There’s too much error and bloat here, and no amount of “oh-whoa-whoa” vocalizing substitutes for quality songs, something this record sorely needed. While few here will get the reference, “Annunaki Genetics” sounds like a poor VNV Nation cover.
The makeup of Narrows reads like an index of the last two decades of hardcore and post-hardcore. Still, there’s plenty for even a novice to the core on Painted (Deathwish), provided an innate appreciation for all things heavy. Save for the thick power electronics brume over the slowboiled “Greenland,” this record is a less experimental offering than the formidable New Distances. Dave Verellen’s razorblade gargles match the dystopic rock fury of “Under The Guillotine” and “It’s The Water.”
Ceremony grow more emboldened with every release, and Zoo (Matador) is no exception. With more in common with artsy farts Wire and P.I.L. than any hardcore act past or present, those Rohnert Park punks brazenly abandon the scene that birthed them. This is not such a bad thing. Consider the sinewy Wobble-esque bassline of “Repeating The Circle” and “Hotel” or the Lydon-like sneer employed frequently throughout. Upbeat rockers “World Blue” and “Hysteria” give false hope.
Given the abundance of current groups grasping at a mid-80s hardcore aesthetic, it seems only fitting that Roger Miret–someone who was actually there at the time–might give it a crack. While his stewardship carries considerable weight, it’s vital not to mistake The Alligators as interchangeable session players, as they also account of 3/4 of Insted. Time’s Up, You’re Dead (Bridge Nine) recaps the glorious old days and will bring a cracked-tooth smile to the faces of wizened punks and skins.