(In this post Todd Manning reviews the new release by Seattle-based Regional Justice Center.)
The combination of Grindcore and Powerviolence has always walked a tightrope between Hardcore and Metal, attacking the listener with feral onslaughts both fast and slow, short bursts of frenzied killing punctuated by neanderthal moments of sludgy-goodness. While employing the brutality of Extreme Metal, these acts often have a certain looseness to their sound, giving them their own Punkish charm within the cacophony of violence.
The new self-titled release from Regional Justice Center has all the hallmarks of these genres with short songs and hair-turn tempo changes, but there is no looseness to be found. Rather, everything here takes the form of a quick precision bombing, and while the record only clocks in at around twelve minutes, a single spin will leave the listener gasping for breath before hitting play again.
Regional Justice Center is the sole creation of Hardcore renaissance man Ian Shelton and was inspired by the incarceration of his younger brother on attempted-murder charges. There is a visceral rage present on every track, a rallying cry against the dehumanizing effects of the penal system.
The opening track “Indecency” contains paint-peeling blast beats, a weird Punk part almost reminiscent of the kind of two-step to be found on early Ministry records, and a morass of Sludge, all in a blink-of-an-eye 60-second run time. The second track “Control” continues this modus operandi with a D-beat section followed by a completely off-kilter blast section and more Sludge. Third track “Sperm Donor” shows even more adeptness with its rhythmic fuckery. And so on; each track is a self-contained ode to all things brutal and rage-inducing without a predictable moment to be found.
Perhaps what is most interesting, Shelton performs every role himself, drums, guitar, bass, and vocals, and this works to the overall advantage of the recording. There is a singular vision at work, and a rhythmic inventiveness rare for the genre. While most Powerviolence bands display rapid shifts within their short songs, there is an unpredictability on this release that sets it apart.
While Shelton’s earlier bands (Habitual Offender, Drug Culture, etc.) definitely check all the right boxes when it comes to Powerviolence and Hardcore, Regional Justice Center marks a leap forward in both originality and execution. When combined with the obviously genuine emotion poured into these songs, there’s no doubt this will prove to be one of the genre’s top releases this year. And now that Shelton seems to assembled a line-up to take Regional Justice Center on the road, expect them to be laying waste to stage near you.