Rating: 23/19 out of one hundred.
The last time we checked in on Adelaide heavy outfit, 23/19, was when I covered their ‘Broken‘ EP earlier in 2018. In short, I didn’t really like it. But with latest release, I’m finally catching up on it before 2019 takes off too much. And in truth, the Aussie quartet’s latest, ‘Two More Reasons To Hate Us‘, fairs better than their last EP. Well, a little bit. It’s still average, but nonetheless a step up in a small way.
It’d be a back-handed compliment to say that with this two-track showing-off better production polish, it’s automatically better than ‘Broken‘, but it’s one I’m absolutely going to pay them. Working with both Alpha Wolf guitarist, Scottie Simpson, and popular mix-engineer, Lance Prenc, has tightened up 23/19’s sonic bulwark nicely. For one, they’ve actually learned how to EQ their guitars to sound good. (Funny the world of difference that makes). The vocals and the rhythm section are also really well-balanced too, so now their tracks feel full and large. Also, for a band who loves their brooding heavy hardcore such as 23/19 do, their style requires that mix clarity and sharper production to make for biting impact, and there’s admittedly some of that here. So let’s get down to brass tacks.
First off, we have the latest and final release from the two-track, ‘Headcase‘. Written about an old, unreliable and drama-causing housemate of theirs, it’s a decent cut. Trust me, I was surprised to learn this too!
With the odd gang vocal chant, dissonant panic chords, a few nu-core whammy parts, and a fitting guest vocal feature from Void Of Vision’s Jack Bergin (a palm-muted-loving moment that sounds like a repurposed VOV song), it’s probably the best track 23/19 have to their name. Though don’t misquote me: it’s nothing special, but despite the generic elements, it stands above their other works.
While it leans heavily on their aggro hardcore style, it contains higher energy levels than usual. It also has a great middle-eight passage where gloomy, spacious guitars rock back-and-forth behind venomous vocal performances. What’s great about that is there’s a proper sense of dynamic there – let’s see more of this, guys! This is what a criticism I was getting at in my last review, and it’s cool to see them learning from that. If the band can cultivate these types of dynamic changes further and organically weave them back into their chug-heavy mosh sound, what comes next might be something quite solid.
On the other side of the coin, we have the second track and first single, ‘Thousand Eyes (Restrict)‘. Honestly, the song’s stomping, metallic hardcore “in all the words she wrote” part is the best asset. It shows that they’re getting better in their groove delivery too. Much like ‘Headcase‘, though, there’s plenty of typical sluggish breakdowns to be had here. Of course, if this is all 23/19 aspire to be musically, well, more power to ’em. I’m just of the opinion that you can find other bands locally (and abroad) who create better heavy music in this laneway, more or less. Please see the following: Alpha Wolf, Falcifer, Daybreak, Wither, Diamond Construct – I could go on.
So, when they premiered this particular track via the Warner Music storefront masquerading as a media outlet, Maniacs Online, the presser statement given about the theme was that: “Thousand Eyes (Restrict) is about online bullying and how its effects can affect people’s actions in their everyday life.” Implying that the Adelaide outfit feels “restricted” by the thousand’s of eyes set upon them. Despite the fact that this track hasn’t cracked 3K views yet, let alone the fact the band have less than 3.5K likes, but whatever.
Amidst the video’s intro, they slide in a sneaky scene of someone typing out “40/100” on a screen about ten seconds in – a reference to the rating I gave ‘Broken‘. Honestly, I wasn’t fazed at all by this. I actually had a good laugh when I saw the score thrown in, and was even flattered too. Given some of the harsher reviews I’ve done, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner, so cheers for that, 23/19. I look forward to seeing how the band will squeeze this article into their next video!
Oddly, with the video’s bullying aspect, we never see personal attacks made against either of the four members. All we’re shown are typed out phrases like “fuck 23/19” and faux-comments mocking their Monster Inc. inspired band name. So the track’s intent and it’s video seem a little miss-matched. Which is it: people not liking you, or people not liking your band?
As after some cursory research online, the only negative coverage I found on them was my review of ‘Broken‘. Which is odder still because a lot of their mates and other local bands support them. Although, at this stage, 23/19 are one of those younger local bands who get talked up simply because they’re local, let’s be real. I know this because I’ve had a couple of their friends’ bands mention to me that they don’t really care for their music. (Same thing occurs whenever I cover Ocean Sleeper, all from the bands who have supported OS in the past. too Which just says more about the Australian local scene’s mentality than anything else). And because the last time we covered 23/19, some of their mates jumped down our Facebook post to defend them. Good job folks, you sure showed us by driving that particular post’s reach and clicks right up with your salty comments. Congrats.
With all this in mind, I assume there’s some bitterness harbored towards me and that the band took my review personally. (Despite me never having met them nor saying anything to personally attack them in the review). Or there’s at least other interpersonal dramas from their own lives regarding harassment going into this song’s lyricism instead. In fact, one of their pals and frequent photographers, Steven Cook, (who has shot gigs for KYS in the past) told me ‘Thousand Eyes (Restrict)‘ wasn’t written because of my review. However, the band’s current publicist – who I am very good friends with – mentioned that what I wrote absolutely had bearing on it. So I don’t know what to think, but they’re totally entitled to write songs about me or anybody else if they so wish.
Though on the off chance this band does think a negative review – someone just not liking their stuff – is genuine bullying and harassment, they’ve got another thing coming. Basically, if you don’t want any form of criticism, don’t do anything creative that puts you out there in some way. Whether it’s playing in a generic heavy hardcore band from Adelaide or running an AT BEST mid-tier Australian music website. Just don’t put something out into the world if you don’t want people to dislike it or disagree with you. People aren’t “cowards” or depressed isolated types if they express they don’t like your content – whether in-person or online. You’ll be fighting an up-hill battle if that’s your attitude.
Just like how I won’t like every single band, and just like how 23/19 may not always receive nice reviews, not every reader is going to agree with my opinions or what I write. And that’s fair enough! That’s okay, as that’s how people and the internet works. But people who dislike your content or criticise you aren’t ‘disconnected’ individuals, as the silly “hater” stigma of the ‘Thousand Eyes (Restrict)‘ music video seems to portray. Simply, they just weren’t about it, and they shared as much. Sometimes, there’s real merit there. Contrary to what most bands think, writers do get criticised. I’ve copped harsh words and critiques in my time (the worst one was someone saying on Facebook that I should kill myself because I didn’t think Northlane’s ‘Node‘ was all that good). But I’ve also received some great feedback from our readers and my peers too, stuff that’s helped me improve. Both situations can be helpful, because whether I take those comments on-board or not – constructive or otherwise – it’s another perspective to consider. And that’s a good thing, that’s what spurns growth.