No Heroes In New England // Week of 7/24/16

Welcome to yet another week of No Heroes In New England, where we scope out the latest, greatest hardcore from the Northeast and give them some much-deserved cred! Let’s get to it, shall we?

Exit Order

All sorts of energy can get thrown out with hardcore music. With more recent bands it seems like more of a beatdown type of feel, with the guitars and vocals and tight drumming ready to just bash you into the floor. Back in the 80s, it used to be more chaotic, and, oddly, a little happy. Even though Circle Jerks and, say, Great American Ghost both technically play within the umbrella term of “hardcore,” they both exude different energies, with Great American Ghost more about raw power and brutality and Circle Jerks sort of embracing the power of youth and running with it.

Although this idea of energy in hardcore is nothing new—if you really think about it, the entire genre is based on getting adrenaline rushing—I couldn’t help but review the concept when listening to Boston’s Exit Order: a band that describes their sound on Bandcamp with one word: punk. (Seriously, check out their description if you don’t believe me.)

You can’t get more apt than that word; punk is what Exit Order does with great aplomb and energy that reminds me of earlier hardcore punk acts like the aforementioned Circle Jerks, but with just a little more caked-on aggression, mostly due to a distinctively raw production style.

The vocals are entirely handled by a fantastic female voice (I wish I had a name, but the band’s BandCamp page doesn’t have any lineup listings) which don’t vary a whole lot from that typical hardcore shout, though there are indeed instances of this woman taking her voice to different places. The tracks bookending this album—“Take the Bait” and “Order”—showcase this variance the best, with the chorus in the former sounding like a hardcore take on The Go-Gos (fucking awesome if you ask me), and the latter with post-punk-like spoken word verses.

I’d be lying if I said that Exit Order was some sort of fresh new sound pushing the limits of hardcore, but that’s not why I find this band so interesting; rather, it’s that they are able to put their own energy into the music and find a voice in a genre that sometimes lacks just that.

Crime Scene

This band legitimately made me laugh when I first turned on their music. For a band with a quintessential hardcore name, and an album cover featuring a drawing of a body chalk line, they start off their demo with a sample from 1967 “sunshine pop” group The Free Designs’s song “Kites Are Fun,” before sending you straight down into the middle of some of the best moshpit punk you will ever hear.

I don’t really know a lot about Crime Scene, though, other than that they hail from Burlington, Vermont, and that this demo is their only material as of this writing. (There are a number of names listed in the details, but nothing on who plays what. And no lyrics, despite the fact that they give credit to the lyricists…)

Crime Scene’s vocals will probably hit you first when putting their music on; they’re incredibly distinctive, in that they’re a tiny bit higher in pitch than you usually hear in a hardcore punk band. It probably shouldn’t be a huge thing to point out, but hardcore is a genre where experimentation can be lacking, so anything distinctive will usually be pointed out and subsequently heaped upon either with reactionary criticism or praise. So while I love these vocals (honestly, the slight gruffness and the passion in this guy’s voice is fantastic), I could see other people not enjoying them as much.

Id’ also like to point out that it’s been about a year since Crime Scene has put this demo out, which might mean that there’s more material coming very soon. We can only hope, right?

Ascend/Descend

Here at No Heroes In New England, we try to explore all that there is in the term “hardcore.” And, fuck, is it a vague term to use; it’s supposed to describe bands like Minor Threat to Converge to Hatebreed to Devil Wears Prada and everything in between. Today, though, it usually refers to metallic hardcore, or what we usually refer to as metalcore.

Accordingly, our last band today is very much a metalcore band, but not in that vein that a band like As I Lay Dying would be in; we’re talking Earth Crisis and Converge type of stuff. This, friends, is Boston’s Ascend/Descend.

First off, there’re more female vocals here, and they’re pretty great, working in that gray area between the distinctively female and the distinctly male vocal sound. (There could be a male vocalist as well, but I’m not entirely sure.) This, combined with a style that beautifully (and unmercifully) fuses hardcore punk and metal, makes for a pretty solid band that uses a good amount of variety in their music.

This isn’t to say that we’ve got a hardcore punk version of Mr. Bungle or something, though; Ascend/Descend scoops up all the various sounds that dominate the modern hardcore scene and puts them all together in a pretty cohesive sound. A track like “Rot,” off of their debut Murdock Street, is slower, feeling almost predatory, like a slow Converge track, while others, like “Manipulator,” blend more traditional hardcore punk with some good ol’ beatdown hardcore for good measure. The song “Trigger Warning” really surprised me with some beautifully melodic moments that  somehow never give up on the heaviness of their hardcore sound.

Lastly, I don’t usually talk about artwork, but the Murdock Street album cover really caught my eye, and the more I look at it the more I can recognize how much it represents the band’s duties to both hardcore and metal. The ornateness of the columns, the flame in the middle, and the gothic lettering all scream metal, but the simplicity of it all makes sure it doesn’t stray too far from hardcore.

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