For Fans Of
In 2017, Knocked Loose and Code Orange became two of the biggest new names in heavy music off the back of ‘Laugh Tracks‘ and ‘Forever‘ respectively. In 2018, two other bands are hopefully going to see similar successes over time. The first, of course, was Boston’s Vein with June’s razor-sharp, futuristic and impressive ‘errorzone‘. The second act I speak of is up-and-coming Philadelphia outfit, Jesus Piece, with the grim and indomitable slamming hardcore sounds of debut LP, ‘Only Self‘. After a well-received 2016 summer promo and 2017’s solid split with Malice At The Palace (‘Hivemind‘ is still GOAT and Jesus Piece definitely outshined MATP), ‘Only Self‘ arrives with hefty expectation behind it. Thankfully, Jesus Piece has made good on the buzz around their name by supplying a solid, crunchy and consistent hardcore album to crowd-kill your friends too. For real, these guys have never sounded heavier nor this goddamn volatile. Which is perhaps the end-result of Weekend Nachos guitarist Andy Nelson producing ‘Only Self‘, as well as Nails/Integrity collaborator Brad Boatright mastering it. A factor that explains why this half-hour album flows together super well, for the most part. (See how the delayed snares fade out ‘Adamant‘ smoothly into the intro swell of ‘Dog No Longer‘, or the fast fluttering sound effects that end ‘Punish‘ before dropping you over the edge into the foray of ‘Curse Of The Serpent‘).
Whether it’s nasty riffs, savage blast-beats, two-step sections, or giant breakdowns, Jesus Piece’s music lands immensely hard. Like the brutal swing of an executioner’s bloody axe down upon some poor soul’s neck. Whether it’s jumping into such meaty sections on the short, racey and heavily syncopated ‘Adamant‘; being ushered in via menacing china ring during pummeling, leader-scrutinizing opener ‘Lucid‘; or from a mammoth pit-call like on ‘Neuroprison‘ (that “tear down the walls of the neuroprison” part will be fuckin’ sick live); this five-piece clearly knows how to write some of the best dad-hat-wearing mosh tunes around. Easily rivaling that of your Harm’s Way’s or your Kublai Khan’s, with just as much vocal rage, groove and seething instrumental aggression. Though, obviously, hardcore records like this aren’t going out of fashion anytime soon. Yet Jesus Piece delivers such beefy metallic hardcore familiarity in a well-written, effective way that’ll see them becoming even further-loved underground stalwarts by 2018’s end.
However, ‘Only Self‘ isn’t simply opting into ultra heavy, brooding beatdown sounds for the sake of it. Amongst the darkened sonics of this house-leveling collection of tracks, the record lyrically tries to find solace within self-improvement. Whether that’s your own mental health progression or the lasting mark you leave upon the world. The message supposedly being that self-loathing and self-destruction can eventually blossom into self-love and self-help; bright light springing forth from the swallowing darkness, both for yourself and others. So on one hand, ‘Only Self‘ is a violent, pit-warrior soundtrack, but on the other, it’s actually damned heavy music laced with philosophical and political musings. For some listeners, this will be an internalized, personal record from a forward-thinking hardcore act speaking about pushing oneself past any and all thresholds. Whereas for others, it’ll carry a strong message of justice, weeding out corruption, preventing further minority oppression, societal chain-breaking and living freely. Who knows, maybe it’s both? Personally, I’m going with a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.
This record’s two singles – the Biblical ‘Curse Of The Serpent‘ and the mental imprisonment of ‘Neuroprison‘ – are easily the strongest cuts available. If anything, both tracks are fully indicative of just how well Jesus Piece can take often generic, obnoxiously heavy hardcore and spruce it up with engaging sections, massive breakdowns, interesting lyricism, and plenty of tough, wicked riffs too. For often enough, it’s the intent and heart behind hardcore records that make them stick out from the incredibly over-crowded populace, and that’s the case here with Jesus Piece’s first full-length. The American group really has something to say here; whether it’s wage slavery, the clowns in charge, or far more personal matters. And when they do speak their truth, musical and vocal brimstone shoots forth from the band’s fiery mouth.
Another massive standout here is without a doubt ‘In The Silence‘. The album’s fifth track injects the most amount of sonic space and instrumental dynamic into any Jesus Piece song thus far. With a core focus on steady drum grooves guiding the mix forward through a dense fog of swirling backing atmospherics, dissonant guitar intervals, and frontman Aaron Heard’s intensive roars, it’s an absolute winner. (FYI: Aaron also plays bass in dream-pop/shoegaze lords, Nothing). This format also means that when the American quintet collides as one instrumentally, there’s actual impact behind such weighty movements. As is the case with ‘In The Silence‘ when that huge outro section touches down with one ground-splitting breakdown. Also speaking of something a little bit different from their usual norm, there’s ‘I‘. This nightmarish interlude piece molds noise influences, some creepy choral moans, and dark ambient elements together; taking the record from stomping hardcore territory to that of an old Silent Hill game’s OST. It’s very unexpected, but goddamn does it work.
‘Only Self‘ is imperfect, though, with my only real issue being the inclusion of ‘II‘ as the final track. Simply because it never really goes anywhere. It repeatedly meanders through sluggish rhythms, layers of drawn-out guitar distortion, some delayed clean vocalizations, and a few distant screams for well over four minutes; bloating the record’s final stretch somewhat. I feel like this was written and included so the band could show everyone they’re more than just a hardcore group. But ‘In The Silence‘ and ‘I‘ prove this fact via much better means. Honestly, ‘II‘ is filler, and probably could’ve been cut down or implemented into the track-listing in a smoother fashion. Still, nine out of ten hits isn’t a bad track record at all. (PSA: with the release of ‘Only Self‘ this week, a fresher version of ‘Oppressor‘ is actually floating around online and it’s insanely good. This new take gives the original track a whole new energy. Why it was included in review copies but not added to the record’s official tracklisting is beyond me though. Happy hunting!)
Taking elements of hardcore, slam, death metal, and infusing them with some of the bleakest timbres and darkest tones you’ll likely hear from a hardcore release in 2018, Jesus Piece have come out guns blazing with ‘Only Self’. It’s heavy, it’s tough, it’s violent, and better yet, it’s pretty dang solid. Save for one late-game hiccup that spoils the album’s back-end somewhat, this record is a fucking beast of a listen. The anguished taste of the dirty floor has never felt so goddamn welcoming.
- Curse Of The Serpent
- In The Silence
- Dog No Longer