Trying to convince some of the staff at Heavy Blog that hardcore can be great isn’t the nightmarish task it probably could be. Thankfully, outside of the rare shitpost thread, opinions and feelings about genres are shared genially; almost lovingly, at times. Everyone knows not to try and beat a dead horse convincing X to find love for the same grind or brutal death records as Y. Well, Y thinks that the Jesus Piece debut is better than any other debut they’ll write about all year. Suck it. Don’t like it? Hit my DMs. Bitch.
That’s how aggressive and hopped up Only Self can get you. Apply liberally but be mindful of what could follow. (Sorry guys – Matt)A cursory glance at the bands that Jesus Piece have toured alongside in their young but illustrious career so far should tell you enough about the band. Label mates with Xibalba, tour buddies with Knocked Loose, Terror et al. The Philadelphia quintet seem to be relishing the company and the impetus to perform harder and heavier every single night. That energy has translated into an utterly crushing debut, stuffed with premium-grade, diamond-sharp metallic hardcore. Seriously heavy shit indeed. So much so that the overall attack might be lost on some, if they refuse to watch their step in this particular pit.
“Neuroprison” has triplet feel riffs that have no business crashing through the track with relative ease and consummate destructive force, nor does “Workhorse” have the right to erupt into a sonically obnoxious two-step; the kind that will wheel kick 100 unsuspecting, bespectacled bystanders at the edge of a pit. The former was a great choice as a single – a great burst of ruthless aggression, containing filthy examples skin-shredding, string sliding dissonance. Both tracks should be enough for any ‘core fan to be convinced of the serious nature of Jesus Piece, but the band have loads more to bludgeon and berate their captive audience. “Lucid” opens up the room with the first dose of gear-shifting filth from a rhythm section that includes every single member of the band, vocal lines enunciating every twist’n’turn of crunchy riff shifts and pulling in a breath just for the bottom to drop out; the next assault of the senses just around the corner. Again, this is violent stuff. Go in not expecting to be hit around the cheeks with chugging riffs, drop-tuned dropkicks and a “what the fuck?” finale.
Generally, the production on Only Self is the right kind of obnoxious. Bass and guitars ring out like the steel cables of a poorly designed bridge in a hurricane and the depth-charge feeling when that low tom is thumped… Ooh. Wee. Underneath the presence of the five members of the band, however, there are reversed cymbal hits and industrial clangs alongside deep buzzing electronics, bubbling through the hardcore beams like magma or some other sort of incredibly hot substance capable of melting some kind of beam. The impact of these elements can’t be swept under the review rug, especially considering their importance in the closing third of this record. At their best, “I” and it’s charmingly titled sequel “II” are brooding, instrumental (for the most part) experiments, using the same heavy-handed production in a completely different manner than the metallic musings of the first twenty minutes. At worst, they could pass for background music in an Alice In Chains-themed restaurant. If they weren’t allowed to play Alice In Chains in there.
Only Self is gloriously unsubtle, steering clear from any notion that the first full-length Jesus Piece record could be anything less than bone jarring and brilliant. Casual listeners might gripe with an apparent reliance on caveman riffs and brute force, should they refuse or be too terrified to let the record do what it needs to do – dropping some of the thickest, heaviest, and nastiest hardcore going. The flirtation with industrial and almost post influences works with the general deconstruction, aiming Jesus Piece towards the lip of the hardcore/butisitreallysomethingelsecore barrel. Only Self will convert old and new fans simply because it is a blistering and toying take on a sound so often labeled as uniform, or even worse, dull. However intimidating this record is, there are love and life running right through its cold, metallic veins.