With bands like Trap Them, Jerry’s Kids, and Converge all hailing from the northeast coast, it’s unsurprising to see why hardcore is a term almost synonymous with New England. But it didn’t always start out like that; due to the efforts of punk zines and record stores like Newbury Comics (who almost single-handedly birthed Boston Hardcore), angry music has been able thrive and blossom.
The purpose of No Heroes in New England is to, with any luck, shed some light on bands that might end up being the next generation of New England hardcore, and make sure they get the attention they due deserve.
So, without any further adieu, let’s hit this thing!
DIY has always been an integral part of the hardcore scene, ever since the first punks who couldn’t stand The Clash and wanted something more brutal started getting together and making music. Like previously stated, it was very much the doing of indie labels and punk magazines that connected the various hardcore scenes across the country.
Boston’s Combined Effort seems to want to take the DIY approach as much as possible, to the point that their logo and band-related art is purposely simplistic and they still rely on cassette tapes for physical distribution. Now, this is not meant to be an insult towards this band, rather that their comes off as both down-to-earth and very much in line with the original hardcore ethos. Their minimalist attitude—if you wish to call it that—exists because they realize that the music is the big part here, not the image that surrounds it. (Note: this is only what I interpret form looking at their sparsely decorated Bandcamp page and reading their lyrics; Combined Effort’s intentions might be very different.)
Combined Effort’s music, is pretty fantastic, although there isn’t a lot of it. (To date they only have a five-song demo.) The band obviously takes a lot of influence from not only the punk bands of the 80s, but beyond that there’s a significant tinge of thrash metal in their music. “What I Gave Up” represents their thrash roots the most with speedy blast beats and an intro that feels like the band was listening to Lazarus A.D. while recording, but you can see this influence pop up every now and then with the guitar work in this demo. (The riff near the end of “Learned Nothing” shows this off very well with a lot of speed and dexterity that doesn’t dissolve into masturbatory shred.) Combined their throwback style with vocals that are a step beyond yells (almost breaching into growly territory but not quite), and you’ve got a band that kicks some serious ass and stays true to themselves. Hopefully there will be more music from Combined Effort, though.
For something with a little more aggression and modern beatdown hardcore (read: Hatebreed-esque pummeling riffs and a relatively slow tempo at times), Buried Dreams packs quite the punch.
The first thing I noticed after turning their music on was how distinctive the guitar work is, and how well the guitar and the rest of the band are able to interplay. This is a tight band; you can tell they practice regularly, or at the very least have some serious natural ability. The guitar work on this EP is nothing short of incredible, blending riffs that sometimes feel only a few steps away from being mathcore with well-placed breakdowns that actually manage to not be unwieldy, unlike a lot of bands today (I’m looking at you, deathcore bands) into a hardcore sound that retains the main elements of its genre but gives off some distinction.
The production style on both their latest self-titled EP and their debut EP (at least I think it’s an EP) Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell exudes a good amount of professionalism. The band definitely knows what they want their music to sound like in the studio; the guitar crunches and the drums stay tight but not robotic.
A little final word on these guys is what I assume to be their sense of humor. When I was searching around for bands for this column and found their Bandcamp page, I was greeted with a weirdly smiling man in what looks like downtown Boston that you just can’t help but laugh a little at. It’s not a huge point to make, but considering that this is a genre that mostly feels dire and angry, it’s a nice change of pace to see that the band isn’t taking themselves entirely too seriously.
Pressing play on New Hampshire’s own Insidious and their latest single “Empty Skull,” I was a little taken aback by the first few seconds. What was blasted into my headphones didn’t feel hardcore—at least, not what I generally thought to be hardcore. The opening riff of “Empty Skull” felt like a slowed-down death metal groove if anything, though very well executed. And then, about twenty seconds in, the main part of the track starts, and I was transported to some of the most skull-crushing, crunchy, and brutal hardcore that I’ve ever seen in a local band.
Now, “Empty Skull” isn’t Insidious’s only track; they began 2016 with a debut EP called Endless Trench that features very similar material to “Empty Skull:” lots of hardcore with the metal influence turned way up. Exactly which genre of metal is up for debate, as each track has a distinct flavor to it—for example, the fifty-second “Interlude” has a very doom metal-sounding riff that has been successfully converted to hardcore while. What can be said definitively is that Insidious knows their metal inside and out, but plays it through a distinct hardcore lens.
In short, this blew me and my expectations out of the water. Insidious, despite being newcomers to the hardcore game, manages to write music that perfectly fits the definition of what metalcore is supposed to be—that is, metal fused with hardcore—and better yet, they do it with surprisingly advanced musicianship.