Nǐ hǎo, and welcome back to another week of No Heroes in New England, where we dig through BandCamp to find the best underground punk the East Coast has to offer. Hardcore is the name of the game here, whether it’s brutal and crushing, a throwback to the 1980s, metalcore, or anything in between. Every week we present three bands who have had (relatively) recent material, but who haven’t signed to a record label or haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.
If I had to name the two bands that almost singlehandedly got me into hardcore, it would probably be The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge. To include either isn’t particularly surprising, given their status as the de facto kings of the genre, but I nonetheless tip my hat to them, and to how differently each band interprets hardcore. While Dillinger is frenetic to the point of insanity with their composition and experimentation, Converge is noisy and raw and grooving with their sound. (This isn’t to discredit Converge; they just happen to have a less radical-sounding attack than Dillinger, in my opinion.) They both clearly belong in the genre, but they both find different things to do with it.
I bring this up because this band—Boston’s Vein—is probably best (but not perfectly) described as a combination of these two legendary bands’ sounds. It’s experimental hardcore that doesn’t deviate from what hardcore is really about, but makes sure that the songwriting remains fresh and interesting. “Mirror Face” (from their 2015 Terrors Realm EP), performs some interesting musical calisthenics, with parts reminiscent of a mid-pace Dillinger frenzy, and some passages that are almost spoken word that offer a haunting contrast to what is to come. The opening track of their self-titled EP probably shows off that Converge/Dillinger hybrid the best, with lots of noisy feedback and odd time signatures up the wazoo. The band’s vocalist has some serious energy as well, bringing a new sense of rawness to the band’s already hardcore sound.
My favorite of their discography so far, though, is their 2016 demo. Although it only consists of three tracks, these are some face-shredding tunes that deserve some serious attention. A rawer production style and the addition of some more noisy/feedback elements add a nice edge to impeccable songwriting. You can headbang to it like a good Converge tune, but it tends to travel and send you through labyrinths of hardcore sound. As a fan is quoted on Vein’s Bandcamp page, “this band deserves way more recognition […] it’s amazing that they aren’t picked up by Deathwish or something.”
As I’ve previously mentioned with bands like Exit Order, there’s been a nice resurgence of hardcore punk bands that infuse a lot of metalcore elements into their sound such as harsher vocals and breakdowns. Mase, in my opinion, could be considered a part of this resurgence, but for different reasons altogether. Really, it’s a swap of sorts; this Connecticut band plays some brutal beatdown hardcore, but uses a lot of more traditional punk elements in their public image and lyrics.
This isn’t to say that metalcore has a completely different aesthetic, but with the rise of new types of playing comes the advent of new ideologies and beliefs influencing music. 80s hardcore punk was essentially unanimous in its themes—a deep-seeded cynicism towards modern life, outspoken political values, and, more than anything, an outwardly rebellious image. And these same themes speak strongly through Mase’s music and image.
Look at the band’s latest EP, United States of What?—the title alone screams The Dead Kennedys, and on top of that the album cover features what seems to be a hand-drawn, completely black-and-white album cover of a couple of rioters beaten down by a demonic-looking SWAT member. And the lyrics…I have no words to describe them other than hardcore at its angriest, so let me just quote a few lines of United States of What’s opening track, “Push Through”:
I hate this place more and more everyday / I want to get out but there is no way / I keep searching and searching to find a place but it’s becoming a part of me / The powers that be won’t get off my back / Always pulling me out of whack / It’s like I do one thing and they want the other / At some points I even feel smothered / Why did I work so fucking hard just to end up in this fucking place?
But let’s not forget about the most important thing: the music. And when I say this is beatdown hardcore, this is BEATDOWN HARDCORE; it’s angry as fuck, and is basically the score to a full-scale police riot. Some parts of the band’s songs, like “Test Me”, groove so well that you could almost rap over them (which isn’t an insult at all). You can tell that each member of the four-piece has their position locked in musically as well, and the vocalist has a neat timbre while yelling that, while not unheard of in hardcore, is nonetheless a little something different (as opposed to something rougher and/or growls).
When I first listened to this band, I had to sit down and think: at what point is a band’s music not hardcore? Is there a hardcore “spirit,” or is it bound by the same restrictions and definitions that any other genre faces (i.e. regularly-used compositional elements)? There were parts of this that tested hardcore’s limits—not by any serious compositional experimentation, but by the tempo and mood the band created.
But as the tracks of Floods’s Discipline’s Throne kept passing me by, it became obvious that, yes, this band is hardcore. And it is some damn good hardcore.
Floods is a Massachusetts band that, like previously mentioned bands such as Jagged Visions, Nihil, and Gator King, leans deeply on the metal side of metalcore, to the point that hardcore elements can seem completely obscured in mixes of doom and some light thrash. The opening track of Disciplines’s Throne, “Shrouded” is a bit of a put-off if you’re expecting face-shredding hardcore from the start, as it’s an instrumental that sounds more like the opening to a doom metal album than anything. Yet, as the album continues, the hardcore dial seems to be consistently turned up (but also combined with lots of doom-laden metal), until the closing song “Monolith,” which features crushing breakdowns upon crushing breakdowns, all leading into an explosion of feedback.
There are a lot of bands that verge on this side of metalcore, but I’ve never really heard anything quite like this; Floods has a genre like doom so well blended into a hardcore formula that you can’t really pick out any distinct parts after a while. Suffice to say, check out this band and give them some much-deserved props.