(In this post we bring you the first of what we hope will be many recommendations of music at NCS by Neill Jameson (Krieg).)
Over the weekend I saw Nails at Choosing Death in Philadelphia. Much like the previous times I’ve seen them it was the audial equivalent of a bulldozer; aggressive, violent, and most importantly, ugly. It made me remember that their Unsilent Death record was a very important moment in my life, creating and feeding my interest in hardcore as a genre beyond either what seemed to me to be loaded with guys lifting weights and shopping for baseball hats on one side of the fence and old bands like Black Flag and Poison Idea who made some of my favorite punk records on the other. I learned that there was hardcore out there that was negative, dark, and expressed something beyond what seemed like a frat house aesthetic.
In the few years since then I’ve been digging into the genre and finding a lot of really, to me, interesting records that fed the need for the dark and heavy sounds of metal while expressing the sort of negative emotions that are fairly constant in my life. Labels like A389, Organized Crime, Melotov, and Magic Bullet are just some that work within this area and are good spots to check out if you have further interest.
I approached NCS with the idea to occasionally pop in and write about music that’s important to me that other folks into metal might not be familiar with but could appreciate. I figured dark hardcore would be a good place to start. So without giving you more back story you don’t care about, here’s a few bands & records to check out.
Integrity is the obvious point to begin here. For over twenty years Dwid Hellion has been creating dark and twisted music under various projects, but Integrity is the thread that ties them all together. Blending hardcore punk and metal initially, Integrity has evolved and changed so many times that the only true constant is that it’s excessively dark and punishing music with a strong aesthetic vision, straying closer thematically to black metal than to punk, which makes them the perfect starting point.
Dwid has also built a close-knit community of like-minded bands and artists around him like Vegas, Rot in Hell, Gehenna, Cape of Bats, and others, all worth digging into. It was difficult to choose what recording to put up here, but I went with Seasons, because it has a good representation of the various amalgamations of the band and also I listened to it on repeat for five hours driving home from Philly the other day. The most recent album, Suicide Black Snake, was a close second, especially due to it being a complex and unfriendly record.
The infamous Gehenna is one of the most punishing bands I’ve heard in this genre. In the same family as Integrity, they also share some of the same characteristics aesthetically, but Gehenna has a very primal delivery, animalistic really. It’s just fucking nasty music.
There’s a lot of releases to choose from, but Negotium is where I’d start. Fans of the origin recordings of German thrash like early Sodom might find something appealing in this record. Essential.
I’ve written about The Banner for NCS before, praising their Greying record as one of my favorite records of the last few years. My feelings haven’t changed. The Banner mix negative hardcore with the post-punk feel of Killing Joke (whom they’ve covered) and some early second-wave black metal.
Though they’ve been around for twenty years, I don’t really care for anything before their Each Breath Haunted record, where they really matured and fell into their own. Every record after that is fucking flawless, especially in the lyrics, which read to me as more genuinely desperate and unsettling than most black metal bands aiming for the whole suicidal thing. I chose their Born to Ruin demo mostly because the vocal delivery is fucking punishing, but also the Zola Jesus cover rules.
This band was honestly a blind buy for me. I’d stocked their records at the store I was managing but never checked them out. I really enjoyed the aesthetic of their artwork, so when A389 had a holiday sale last year I threw this seven inch in my cart. Since then it’s become one of my prized pieces of vinyl.
This Canadian band instantly reminded me of The Banner in that there was just a constant heavy pulse with a nasty tone. Word is they’re working on a full-length, which is one of my most anticipated records of the coming year.
Catharsis are a fucking monster. Doomy, complex, and deeply heavy. They’ve re-formed within the last few years and their recordings are finally more readily available outside of ridiculous collectors’ prices. I’m hoping this means there are more recordings coming, but until then spend some time with this collection and become familiar with its layers of emotion.
Last entry on this list should be familiar to some of you who attend the various deathfests you guys can’t stop fucking posting about while the rest of us are stuck at work scowling while you get to go have “fun”. Dropdead have played many of them and for good reason: they’re violent as fuck live.
If we’re going to be genre snobs, I guess they fall more under powerviolence than hardcore but fuck it, I’m writing this so I’m fitting them in. Much like the Siege song Dropdead are direct and aggressively to the point. With a slew of releases spanning three decades it’s difficult to pinpoint one as a good starting place, so I’m going with one of the full lengths.
One caveat, I suppose, would be that this is strongly message-driven music, so if you have difficulty with that or if thinking isn’t your thing I guess this counts as a trigger warning. They also have a strong hand in Armageddon Shop, whose location in Providence is a must every time I’m in the area.
As I was compiling this list I realized there would be a lot of shit I’d leave out or purists would give me shit for calling “hardcore” instead of “crust” or whatever tag is being thrown around these days, but I’d recommend all three Cursed records and any Hoax recordings as well.
With any luck I’ll be back sometime with more music to share that you won’t listen to. Until then..