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The Broderick have certainly taken their time with their debut LP release. More than four years have passed since the Melbourne five-piece gouged their way into the scene with ‘Illusion Over Despair’, a not-quite-hardcore EP that eschewed the genre’s conventions and secured lucrative tours for the band alongside The Ghost Inside, Break Even and Miles Away. Years of dormancy may have eroded much of their wider recognition, but on their first full-length, ‘Free To Rot, Free Of Sin’, The Broderick emerge as the slow, patient tortoise that ultimately wins the race.
To call this a hardcore album, as the band self-describes, would be an unfair pigeonhole for this group of unquestionably talented musicians. Of course, all the traditional elements of the genre are there, but the real magic comes from the way the band puts together the same puzzle pieces that are available to everyone else. The broader strokes that unify the album’s tracks take a similar approach to Australian contemporaries like The Hollow and latter-day Carpathian, who decorate their bone-crunching, low-end chords with melancholic, harmonised phrases that lend melodic sobriety to the anger of their music. However, ‘Free To Rot, Free Of Sin’ is much more dense and foreboding, emphasising droning feedback, rumbling bass notes and compactly-layered guitar work to create an oppressive, almost depressing atmosphere. The oft-repeated riff and fuzz-soaked, dissonant chords of opener ‘Black Lung’ are gritty but never hollow, echoing the aesthetic of sludge metal bands like Kylesa and Baroness.
The band differs most drastically to their peers within the very structure of their material. Triple meter is an occasional novelty for most proponents of the hardcore genre, but here, it is The Broderick’s bread and butter, ironing out some of the sloppy structuring of their earlier material to ensure concise songwriting that avoids becoming formulaic. Drummer Ash Denman shines within this template, exercising a militaristic precision with fiercely on-point drumbeats. Frontman Logan Fewster remains squarely in the forefront of the mix, with an unrelenting, animalistic roar that pervades even in the slow, sparse moments of ‘Drone’ and ‘Diving Bell’. His unfaltering tone lends intensity to the band, propelling introspective lyrics that embody the chaotic desperation of the music behind them. Previously, the band’s influence from extreme hardcore veterans Converge was more blatant, with backing vocals that mirrored the indiscernible bark of Jacob Bannon. On ‘Free To Rot, Free Of Sin’, the tributes take a slighter approach, with shifts to fierce blast-beats on ‘Distance’ and an overall tone that is eerily reminiscent of the quieter moments of Converge’s career.
Part of the effectiveness of the album can be attributed to Matt Ellard and Alan Douches, who mixed and mastered it respectively. With a combined resume that includes the likes of Converge and Every Time I Die, it is obvious why the band selected the pair to engineer their music. The production lifts The Broderick above their Australian contemporaries and allows ‘Free To Rot, Free Of Sin’ to compete on an international level, anchored by a dense, full-bodied mix and painstaking attention to detail. Every cymbal, kick and snare hit is given a bombastic quality that few records can match, creating the groundwork for fastidious guitar tones that paint the album in fifty shades of grey. This is without a doubt the best sounding album that Australian heavy music has produced this year, both on a technical and musical level, and the band deserves all the recognition in the world for it.
Bombastic and melancholic are the best words to describe ‘Free To Rot, Free Of Sin’, the debut full-length of Melbourne’s The Broderick. After more than four years of hibernation on the release front, the band have returned triumphant with an LP that combines a refreshingly original iteration of hardcore with impeccable production values. This is one of the best releases of the year so far, but don’t take my word for it. Listen for yourself.
1. Black Lung
6. Low Sky
7. Brave New World
10. Diving Bell