Welcome to another week of No Heroes In New England, the column where we take a glimpse into the hardcore goings-on in the land of the Patriots and give some lesser-known bands some much deserved kudos. The definition of “hardcore” in this context is a loose one, as the bands presented come from a large gamut of hardcore music, including metallic hardcore (i.e. metalcore), post-hardcore, and good old American hardcore punk. Last week’s article shed some light on the bands Void of Heaven, Crystal Methodist, and Haste; if you want to check it out, just click here.
What creates the genre of hardcore for me is the feeling of rage and ire, fed from musicians through their instruments. It was radical, violent, “nonconformist” behavior—that feeling of being freed, if even for an hour, from the day-to-day humdrum of the modern life—that led American bands like The Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat to effectively create the subgenre of hardcore punk.
Boston’s Nihil seems to be readily aware of all the various ways to vent rage, and subsequently writes music that feels like a kick in the stomach and a punch to the face, complete with poetic Converge-esque lyrics. Bassist Jake Boes is relentless in his vocal attack, as if he’s screaming for his life in a corrupt insane asylum, while Max and Zach Bond—drums and guitar, respectively—create a groundwork that is raw anger put to tape. Zach’s guitar has the drive of a Pig Destroyer cover band and an overall scooped-out crunchiness that is synonymous with New England hardcore. Together, they manage to make music that, as they say in their Bandcamp profile, “break[s] down the barrier between metal and hardcore,” with plenty of aggression and heaviness thrown in.
My only complaint of Nihil is their lack of material. Counting their debut EP, Low Life, containing tunes from a previous band, Vultures, and their recently-released Axiom demo, the band has eight tracks to their name, and two of them are covers. Their website reports that the band has a full album “waiting in the wing,” but nothing further, which, honestly, sucks. This is a band that, in my opinion, has the ferocity and musicality to produce AOTY-level material with just their debut album. But, I guess I have to be patient; after all, artists should be free to create and release as they please. That doesn’t settle my frustration, though.
Take a look, if you will, of the link to Swamps’s latest album Mentally Imprisoned, and notice the cover, featuring the insane awesomeness of what is (presumably) the band’s singer Andy Redbears in the middle of a jump on stage. It’s all black and white, and if you look, you can see the rest of the band—bassist Thomas Margeson, Drummer Chris Loso, and guitarist Nicholas Bechard—all grooving to a song. I feel like everything you need to know about Swamps is displayed nicely in this album cover. It’s black and white, simple, and just screams hardcore.
Started in 2010, Swamps currently plays a style of hardcore that is incredibly riff-centric, with a lot of obvious influence from thrash metal. Unlike thrash, though, where speed is an essential element of the genre’s sound, this band is able to slow things down to a comfortable pace when they feel like it. In fact, most of Mentally Imprisoned has a really catchy groove with a healthy tempo—not too fast, not too slow, though there are times (“Corroding Kings,” “Going Postal”) where the band speeds up into some semi-thrash territory. Both of the “Interlude” tracks showcases the sort of melodic slow-down that Converge used in some of the tracks off of the legendary Jane Doe, which feel right in place in Mentally Imprisoned, despite being the most mellow tracks in the listing.
Andy Redbears’s vocals tend to vary from the thrashcore type of twang (read: aggressive, high register yelling) to some really well-done yells that remind me a lot of The Great American Ghost, but have a distinct personality to them, as if you could pick them out of a lineup of hardcore bands. Bechard’s guitar work isn’t showy or exceptionally technical, instead focusing on pummeling riffs that are just made to headbang to. It’s very obvious that Bechard has the ability to do a lot more, (especially after listening to the riff to “Money” or “Sea of Snakes”), but purposefully scales things back to focus on the way his instrument works with the rest of the band. And, of course, the rhythm section of Loso and Margeson is tight and precise. Again, the entire band has the ability to do more, but knows how much of an effect a well-written hardcore groove has and instead focuses their combined energies to do just that.
Boston’s Phantom Glue have been a subject of Heavy Blog before (we reviewed their album A War of Light Cones), but it’s been four years since that time, and I felt that they were long overdue for some hardcore kudos, considering how awesome their new album 776 is.
Now, before you start brandishing your torches and pitchforks, I’ll explain why I picked this band. First off, no, they are not hardcore in the way that Nihil or Swamps are. This is more Gaza-sounding territory, specifically their final No Absolutes in Human Suffering album, but stripped of its more math-influenced moments. (If it’s even fair to put Phantom Glue in a genre, they’d probably be considered more sludge metal than anything.) There is a significant amount of hardcore that shines through 776 that convinced methe band deserved at least a mention. The song “Somatic,” in particular, uses a lot of sustained notes that remind me a lot of Gaza, and has a diamond-tough hardcore groove to match, with pulsing beats courtesy of Kyle Rasmussen’s High On Fire-esque drum work. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Oates is brutal in his delivery, but again, he has this punk edge to his voice that adds some serious energy to the entire album.
But, there’s a lot more going on than just hardcore in 776, which will no doubt be a source of contention for addition in this column. At best, it’s half hardcore and half sludge, but nonetheless, it’s an album that I feel will appeal to hardcore fans, with its exceptional ferocity and brutally heavy production.