Vein (who I will be referring to throughout this review sans “.fm”, assuming it’s something that will blow over just like the whole “Ghost B.C.” debacle) produced one of the most unique and exciting debuts in hardcore history with 2018’s Errorzone. The album’s blend of nu metal and electronic elements with abrasive mathcore was a truly refreshing shot in the arm to what at the time was a largely stagnate genre, and, along with Code Orange’s Forever (2017), was poised to usher in a new wave of nu and industrial-focussed hardcore. Yet, while Code Orange have gone from strength to strength since then, delivering a slew of releases that have furthered their sound and cemented their position at the forefront of modern hardcore, Vein have remained silent leaving fans to wonder where this (relatively-)long awaited second outing might take them and where they would be taking hardcore this time around. Rather than another landmark slab of forward thinking, genre bending hardcore, however, what we This World is Going to Ruin You is an extremely and deliberately regressive record, which, though perfectly serviceable, does little to justify Vein’s reputation as hardcore visionaries.
Bands going “back to their roots” is a tale as old as time itself, but they don’t normally do it on their second album following an innovative and almost universally acclaimed debut. Nevertheless, the announcement of Vein’s sophomore outing came alongside a statement that the album’s “vibe was to go back to the origin point of Vein and put it on blast,” thereby “taking that part of the band to its fullest potential.” I don’t think that’s what putting something “on blast” is meant to mean but, either way, the announcement did not bode well for fans of Errorzone’s eclectic sound, and you can say what you want about This World is Going to Ruin You, but it certainly delivers on its promise of a return to Vein’s earlier, more rudimentary sound. Besides the one-minute-long “Inside Design” there isn’t a single significant electronic element or distinctly nu metal riff to be found throughout the record.
Instead, This World is Going to Ruin You, is almost exclusively populated with the kind of angular, abrasive mathcore bands like Norma Jean, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Will Haven and, yes, even Vein themselves made their name on before branching out into more expansive territories. For what it’s worth, it’s a fairly successful rendition of the sound. Standouts like “Fear in Non Fiction” featuring Thursday’s Geoff Rickly, “Wavery” and “Magazine Beach” are all welcome additions to the band’s armoury, but they are also the songs that deviate the most from the album’s standard chaotic hardcore template, which suggests Vein are still at their best when they’re pushing boundaries instead of playing within them.
What This World is Going to Ruin You is lacking—if not quality—is any sense of importance or identity. Why listen to this album over any of the others alluded to above? And why listen to it in 2022, twenty years after it was all the rage? That’s not to say there’s never any value in listening to or producing albums with retro or even regressive sounds, but Vein have proved they have so much more in their arsenal and it’s a shame not to see them further developing the elements that made Errorzone so exciting in the first place. Moreover, there are other modern hardcore bands doing exactly this sort of bludgeoning, regressive mathcore to a far higher and more distinctive standard. Perhaps the album This World is Going to Ruin You has the most in common with is End’s outstanding Splinters From an Everchanging Face (2020). It’s as good a reference point as any, given it was our collective favourite hardcore record the year it came out.
However, that’s also to say that it’s already been done, recently, and to a far higher standard. Whereas confessional voice recordings like that found on “Funeral Sound” were weaved throughout Splinters From an Everchanging Face, helping to construct its dark undertones and adding to its menacing atmosphere, those on This World is Going to Ruin You—which is produced by End’s Will Putney, no less—feel completely tacked on, following the comparatively fitting climax of “Wavery”, so that they can only be considered an afterthought.
There is a lot of posturing within hardcore and—while I’m purely speculating here—I can’t help but wonder if This World is Going to Ruin You is primarily a reaction to those few detractors of Errorzone who considered the introduction of electronic and nu metal elements to be a betrayal of the band’s “true” hardcore roots. Maybe, in retrospect, the band felt it was a betrayal themselves. Maybe this is just what theyfelt like doing at the time, which is perfectly valid, but not particularly compelling. Who knows, but I can’t think of any other logical reason why Vein wouldn’t want to further develop the sound they developed on Errorzone in favour of re-visiting a sound they’d only just left behind and which, by the time of its follow-up’s release has become entirely outdated, in part by their own hand. Personally, I don’t think any of the material is a step up from that of Vein’s early demos, EPs or their breakthrough split with .giffromgod, let alone the classics of the genre, and the question remains: why not combine them with Errorzone’s elements instead of doing away with them entirely?
Maybe my expectations are unfair and if This World is Going to Ruin You had come before Errorzone I wouldn’t be judging it so harshly. By the same token, however, I doubt as many people would be lining up to hear the second Vein record if this had been the first one and, while the band promise the record is “not a nostalgia trip” they provide little to disprove the accusation. If the goal was to reassert Vein’s hardcore credentials, then I guess it can only be considered a resounding success. Yet, by stripping away all the experimental elements of their sound Vein have also done away with what set them apart and become the exact thing they always claimed they weren’t, which is just another hardcore band.