"But then what drove me wanting to get it out was the idea that it could help other people."
NSW/ACT group Honest Crooks are recognised for releasing brutal metalcore and hardcore music, with influences stemming from old-school death metal like Obituary to Parkway Drive. Winston McCall said their music "Hits harder than a cement haymaker," while Wall Of Sound called them "one of Australia’s hottest and heaviest acts."
Acclaim seems to follow the band wherever they go, but when we catch up with the band, vocalist Brodie Graham is just wandering around a local park, taking in a perfect Sydney day.
Today, Honest Crooks released their debut album, The Sounds Of Hell, a brutal record they'll take on tour next week. "It was kinda like, it felt like we were cursed for a little bit. Because everything went wrong, like, as soon as we booked to record it, everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong," Graham says about the behind-the-scenes of the record, from band members leaving to the Covid-19 pandemic halting life as we knew it.
As well as the internal and external factors the group faced, Graham has his insecurities to contend with. "I had my own issues because I'd only been doing vocals for such a short amount of time; I didn't really have any experience," he admits. "And then going straight into recording the album was super daunting. And then I thought I was shit and couldn't do it; I nearly gave up. And it was just all sorts of hurdles."
Listening to the album, though, Graham certainly doesn't sound like a rookie. "I appreciate that a lot. Thank you very much," Graham responds. While he's pumped that audiences get to hear the album after years of hard work and questioning if it would see the light of day, there's a conflicting emotion, too: worry. "It's funny because these songs are so old now that they don't feel like new songs," he explains.
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Despite The Sounds Of Hell being devastatingly heavy, the album also features horror-influenced interludes, sort of similar to what Slipknot have on their albums. The idea came from Graham and producer Elliott Gallart. "I love all that shit," Graham laughs. "Most of the interludes came from either me or Elliott, who's a close friend of mine, and we were living together at the time. Lewy [Glass, bass] is also super good at that stuff."
On the first single of the album, Furnace Of Rage, Graham commented: "Just because you're in the presence of a police officer does not inherently mean that you are safe, and it is my belief, from my experiences, that you are more likely to be in danger. Fuck everyone who says that if you weren't doing the wrong thing, nothing bad would have happened to you because I am telling you that is not true. This song is about an abuse of power."
Graham wanted to spread the message of speaking out against abuses of power, but the truth is that Furnace Of Rage stems from somewhere more personal.
"That song was about a police officer, about a very personal thing that happened to me," he shares. Graham didn't realise just how much the experience had affected him, as it happened so long ago. "I didn't think it affected me, but it must be somewhere in my subconscious because as soon as I got the opportunity to write lyrics to a song, that was the first thing I wrote about.
"And then I was tossing up whether I actually wanted to release that and let people hear it and be able to judge it," he continues. "But then what drove me wanting to get it out was the idea that it could help other people. It's good for people to know, and people that have experienced the same thing might get something out of it. And other people can be cautious of what could potentially happen to them and things like that. So it was a personal experience that drove that song, for sure."
Next week, Honest Crooks go on the Hell Across Australia tour with the Japanese band Kruelty. "I'm super pumped - really excited to meet Kruelty. I want to show them a really good time so that they want to keep coming back to Australia," Graham says.
But there's something he's equally excited about: the reformation of a little hardcore four-piece from Sydney called Hell On Earth. "They're opening up for the Sydney show, and I'm expecting that to pop the fuck off," he laughs, revealing that Hell On Earth are good mates.
Heavy music seems to be in an exciting place, with a hardcore band like Turnstile nominated for multiple Grammy Awards this year, Architects opening for Metallica, and local bands Northlane, Void Of Vision and Alpha Wolf featuring on the inaugural Knotfest Australia line-up. All these success stories ignite energy and inspiration for Graham, who feels like he's in high school again, watching metal bands blow up.
"It's kind of reminded me of that sort of early 2000s thing when we were all very young and started going to shows, and Parkway blew up," he says. "And then all the people you went to school with that bullied you for listening to heavy music started going to the shows because it was cool, which is fine. I think that's cool. It just became mainstream for a short stint there in Australia, and it feels like that's happening again. But it feels like it's happening in a different way. It feels like it's happening in a more fun, inclusive, probably less dangerous way."
The Sounds Of Hell is out now; you can listen to it here. Take a look at their tour dates below.
2023 AUSTRALIAN TOUR WITH SPECIAL GUESTS KRUELTY
Thursday, 16 February - Vinnies Dive Bar, Gold Coast - Tickets
Friday 17 February - Tomcat, Brisbane - Tickets
Saturday 18 February - Newcastle Hotel, Newcastle - Tickets
Sunday 19 February - Factory Floor, Sydney - Tickets
Wednesday 22 February - The Basement, Canberra - Tickets
Friday 24 February - Workers Club, Melbourne - Tickets
Saturday 25 Feb - Crown & Anchor, Adelaide - Tickets