I can see listening to hardcore in 2011 becoming increasingly difficult, what with Kvelertakâ€™s self-titled album having such an impact on my opinions and take on the genre. Itâ€™s not as if Iâ€™ve been brainwashed; but the desire to listen to something infused with rage, Thin Lizzy riffs and incomprehensible Norwegian lyrics about chugging mead becomes stronger and stronger with each passing day.
Thank god then for hardcore upstarts Damages, who actually tap into that part of my brain that has the fondness for that fist in the air, blaring pomposity of brash relentless noise. Damages hail from Grand Rapids, Michigan and they see the concept of melody and tune as something reserved for lesser, inferior bands.
Those still mourning the loss of Give Up The Ghost (come on people, itâ€™s been 6 years, move on!) and grind/thrash noisemakers, Some Girls (also defunct) will not be disappointed by Damages. In fact, youâ€™ll probably be fairly bemused, scouring the internet to find if Wes Eisold (vocalist of GUTG and Some Girls) has started a new band under this moniker. Basically, thereâ€™s not much in it regarding the vocals â€“ which are pretty much a spot on Wes Eisold in delivery and pure guttural determination.Â Thereâ€™s even a fair helping of the rage and utter turmoil in the lyrics, which read like a disgusted, hate-filled book of face-punching poetry. Personal favourite being on the EP title track;
â€œI wish that I could just forget: all the fucks that I regret. /Waking up in a cold sweat./The weight of unpaid debt.â€
This is the kind of venom-spitting, sneering diatribe that a lot and I mean A LOT of current hardcore is missing. Yeah, weâ€™re all bonded by brotherhood, so what? You can write about trust and loyalty until you get stampeded by a load of cows seeking home; the fact is, real actual passion and emotion without having to suffer THAT tag is difficult to come by and requires talent to write something that is going to genuinely reach out to people. Damages do that â€“ the freely admit Give Up The Ghost as being a direct influence, which is fine â€“ the similarities stick out like a sore thumb â€“ but in doing this, theyâ€™re opening up a new gateway to hardcore that isnâ€™t all about meathead throwdowns and windmilling chuckleheads; but nor is it about sitting in your room, crying all your black mascara down your face.
â€˜Loveâ€™s Laborâ€™ has a fairly brazen attitude about it – that cocky swagger of indifference to itâ€™s peers and a fearless ability to show off. â€˜Frowning Fortuneâ€™ for instance, starts with a rumbling bass gurgle and then batters forward without any subtlety in a complete overblown blast of thrashy punk rock abhorrence and this heavy, dragging churn of reluctance to finish. I canâ€™t make up my mind if â€˜T.S.B.T.E.H.A.Mâ€™ is in essence, an angry suicide note, full of resignation, or just a fancy hate letter written by someone with a victim complex. The lines stating:â€œthis is an invitation to a pity party, but before you R.S.V.P. please take an inventory of the worst things you’ve done to meâ€ and then it goes on to list the grievances caused by the target.
â€˜The Prisonerâ€™ operates as a standard trash-hardcore torrent of noise, as instruments clatter into each other in a desperate, frustrated race to finish before the next vocal roar. Excellent use of gang vocals on the words â€˜HATEâ€™ and â€˜LOVEâ€™.
Despite the emo-tastic title â€˜Dreamt a Little Dream Of Youâ€™; the song is in fact a dense, claustrophobic barrage of woe transformed into something resembling hope. The lines â€œâ€¦make me a person that I have never been by bringing me peace with the sand in your handsâ€¦â€ gives a nod towards desiring change and some absolution for former misgivings. â€˜Desperate Declineâ€™ channels the feral nature of The Hope Conspiracy jamming with Poison The Well, whilst employing dishevelled breakdowns and some truly incessant drumming and distorted vocals, whilst the guitars actually groove and slide before turning down the pathway of chugging freedom.
Itâ€™s not an easy listen; but ‘Loveâ€™s Labor‘ is a savage, yet passionate affair, laced with trouble â€“ itâ€™s a hark back to when hardcore punk had that spirit and persistence; that air of a sweaty, unkempt basement show, populated by high fives, stage dives and making music from the hellbound heart.
By Ross Macdonald