The Month In Hardcore: March 2021
Someone in God’s Hate keeps a thumb on the pause button while watching TV. Movie soundbites have been part of the sonic tapestry of hardcore for decades. They’re a tried-and-true tactic; if you want to communicate the idea that an extremely hard song is about to start, you throw in a quick sample of someone saying some hard shit in a movie. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of hardcore bands have started off their demos by doing something like that. Often, those samples come from crime movies, Scorsese ones especially, and a band’s specific choice tends to say a lot about that band. Trapped Under Ice, for instance, always communicated Baltimore pride by going heavy on Hairspray and Cry-Baby.
Nobody uses those samples as often as God’s Hate. The Van Nuys band uses soundclips whenever possible. They never get sick of it. That’s cool with me, since I never get sick of it either. God’s Hate have been throwing those soundclips in ever since they released their Divine Injustice 7″ in 2014. Their very first song ends with one of them. (It’s Pinhead in Hellraiser: Bloodline: “Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?”) God’s Hate’s new self-titled album, their first release in five years, has those samples on almost every song, and it gives a pretty good idea what the members of the band have been watching in quarantine: Battlestar Galactica, the Zack Snyder Watchmen movie, Jorge Masvidal hyping up a UFC fight. Dialogue from Yellowstone shows up on two different songs.
I love those little bits of dialogue. I love how they show up and set the tone in a couple of seconds. I love Googling the ones I don’t recognize. I love imagining the members of the band trying to decide which ones to use. But God’s Hate don’t need those samples. God’s Hate can express themselves just fine on their own. You don’t exactly have to work hard to figure out what frontman Brody King is shouting about. “Be Harder,” the instant classic from the new album, spells it out on the chorus: “Life is hard. Be harder.”
Brody King is harder. I knew about King as a pro wrestler before I knew about God’s Hate. A few years ago, the indie wrestling scene saw an influx of big motherfuckers: WALTER, Jeff Cobb, Keith Lee. These guys could fly off the top rope, but they would also make elbow strikes look like killshots. Brody King was, and is, one of these guys. Many of those big motherfuckers have since signed to big companies, and King is now part of Ring Of Honor, the storied indie-wrestling promotion that’s launched the careers of most of wrestling’s biggest stars for more than a decade. King is a gigantic brick shithouse of a man, built to intimidate, and he can move. His mere existence in a wrestling ring is a spectacle.
King was in hardcore long before he was in wrestling, and from all accounts, his presence in the moshpits of Southern California wasn’t too different from his presence in pro wrestling. On the most recent episode of the great Forum Of Passion podcast, King talks about how he spent most of his twenties doing nothing but working — he was a union lighting technician on movie sets — and going to hardcore shows. He’d drive up and down the coast to go see Terror whenever they’d play, and he’d pit hard. Then he’d drive home, sleep for a couple of hours, and work another 12-hour day. If you look at footage of shows in Southern California in the ’00s or the early ’10s, you can often see King in the pit. He’s not hard to spot.
God’s Hate and King’s wrestling career started around the same time, and his wrestling career has been successful enough that he hasn’t had many weekends to devote to God’s Hate. When the band announced the new album, it was a surprise, but it made sense. The big wrestling companies — WWE, AEW, New Japan — are still running shows. The smaller companies like Ring Of Honor are not. Brody King has time now.
There have been links between hardcore and pro wrestling for a very, very long time, and those links are stronger than ever these days. Every Time I Die guitarist Andy Williams, for instance, is now the Butcher in AEW, and one of that company’s stars is Darby Allin, a guy who takes his first and last names from self-destructive punk icons of generations past. But Brody King might represent the truest connection between these two great brutalist art forms. He wrestles like he sings, and he sings like he wrestles.
There is absolutely nothing arty or oblique about the sound of God’s Hate. It’s just straight-up no-bullshit heavy hardcore. Sometimes, their monster crunch veers into straight-up metal territory, especially when co-founder Colin Young, also of Twitching Tongues, wails out his occasional triumphant melodic vocals. Most of the time, though, God’s Hate just make primal juggernaut goon music. Their strongest influences seem to be head-smashing overlords: Merauder, Cold As Life, Hatebreed. There’s so much Hatebreed in God’s Hate that listening to the album makes me want to start a Twitter feud with Chvrches. (Actually, I’m surprised that hasn’t happened yet.)
I love the sheer simplicity of the God’s Hate album. The band never wrongfoots you; they just bring the head-smash grooves and nasty riffs and bellowed vocals. Colin Young’s brother Taylor, maybe the best producer working in hardcore right now, recorded God’s Hate, and he also played guitar on it. (Young’s good at that, too. Until recently, he played in Nails.) The album sounds huge. Their hooks are engineered for big-room shout-alongs. The band seems very conscious of how this will go over once live shows become a possibility again. “The Valley Beyond (818)” brings in Terror’s Scott Vogel, Martin Stewart, and Nick Jett for a full-on local pride posse cut. If a California crowd ever gets to hear that thing in person, it is going to be absolute bedlam.
All through the album, God’s Hate let you know exactly where you stand. Brody King’s lyrics, for instance, don’t force you to do too much work interpreting things. He works almost exclusively in the medium of hard-as-fuck sloganeering: “True pain breeds strength within/ Weakness shatters unworthy men.” He offers a common-sense solution for what to do with white supremacists: “Finish the job/ Kill them all/ No empathy for your supremacy.” His theology is pretty simple, too: “Children of God, the fools who take the bait/ When will humanity wake to see that God is mankind’s worst mistake?” At one point, King straight-up bellows, “Now I must break you.” He quotes Ivan Drago, and he means it. There is no irony in that line. Irony does not exist on God’s Hate.
You will not feel smart listening to God’s Hate. The band does not push the genre forward or challenge perceptions. Nobody is going to accuse them of being cerebral. If you’re going to listen to them, you need to get over that shit. You should. God’s Hate have force and conviction and Brody King’s gale-force roar. They play heavy hardcore about as well as it can be played. If it hits you the right way, their music might make you feel alive. Or it might just make you start watching Yellowstone.
Cell Rot – “1000 Ways To Ruin Your Day”
It’s hard to make out the Oakland band Cell Rot’s lyrics through the vomit-encrusted gargle-screech of their singer’s vocal tone, but this line comes through clearly enough: “Every day! Is the same!” He sounds absolutely furious about this, as well he should. One of the things I love about pandemic-era hardcore: Even when the songs are about the numb monotony of the past year, they still bring fire. They still make the case that fuck this. Cell Rot play fast and messy and ugly, as if they’re determined to make you feel something. I appreciate the effort. [From Slowly Falls Apart EP, out 4/2 on Convulse Records.]
The Chisel – “What I See”
These UK punks have been in this column in back-to-back months, but only because they’ve cranked out great little EPs in back-to-back months. “What I See” works as a powerful indicator that more street-punk bands should have piano players. Even when those pianos are just doing staccato, tuneless Jerry Lee Lewis pounding, it’s a whole new element, and it doesn’t have to make it sound any less tough. On this one, the Chisel sound as righteous as ever: “Fantasize what it used to be! This country ain’t ever been free!” [From Enough Said EP, self-released, out now.]
Express – “Green Roses”
The Australian hardcore scene is mostly a mystery to me, but a whole lot of nasty shit comes out of it. Express are a quarantine-era project formed in Byron Bay, and their lineup includes members of some bands (Nerve Damage, Survival, Born Free) that I’ve never heard of. But their whole style — head-stomping ’90s-style New York-type shit, major Madball vibes — makes perfect sense. “Green Roses” is a knuckle-dragger bounce about making our own way in the world, and that’s plenty relatable. A couple of those lines, if I’m understanding them right are also about weed, and that’s plenty relatable, too. [From Demo 2021, out now on Last Ride Records.]
Freeza – “Control”
I don’t know if this UK band is named after the planet-destroying evil-emperor diva from Dragon Ball Z, and if they are, then I don’t know why they spelled his name wrong. But I love it. That rules. That’s an ideal balance between nerdiness and ignorance. Freeza’s sound is Turnstile-style stagediving-goofball music, and the world always needs more of this. Even the parts of “Control” that I should dislike, like that quasi-rapping breakdown bit, only make me like it more. [From Control EP, out now on Injustice Records.]
Gel – “Bitchmade”
The New Jersey band Gel exist somewhere on the boundary between raw, sloppy basement-punk and knucklehead fight music. They sound like the toughest band at the all-day 12-band squat festival. “Bitchmade” is a guttural facewrecker, but its desperation hits just as hard as its intensity. And there are little bits of melody in that riffage that make me feel like I’m riding on the back of a tiger as it sprints full-speed across a lush, verdant meadow. [From Violent Closure EP, out now on Atomic Action! Records.]
Gulch – “Bolt Swallower”
The mere existence of a Gulch/Sunami split EP should be enough to plunge us into widespread societal violence, and every one of the four songs on the split is just unrelentingly fucking hard. (If these two bands ever get together to tour, I promise to Clothesline From Hell somebody.) But the song I like best might be the most ambitious thing in Gulch’s discography, and this is a band that has never lacked ambition. “Bolt Swallower” twists and wriggles and smashes its way through one extreme genre and into the next with wild-eyed abandon, ending up someplace almost contemplative. [From Gulch/Sunami split, out now on Triple B Records.]
MOVE – “Freedom Dreams”
Boston’s MOVE are a band that exists specifically to represent the Black experience within hardcore. They’re strident and upright and righteous, and they don’t mince words about their ultimate goal “to one day see the death of the white man’s dream.” That alone means something. But “Freedom Dreams” isn’t just message music. It’s also expertly hard and unashamed mosh music. Sometimes, important music just exists to be important. MOVE make important music that exists to make you want to break bricks over your forehead. [From Freedom Dreams EP, out now on Triple B Records.]
Ozone – “Couldn’t Care Less”
Riff change-ups in hardcore are the best shit. The band locks into an almighty groove, and then they suddenly switch over to a new one, as if to signal the crowd to go even more bugshit. On “Couldn’t Care Less,” the Fort Worth band Ozone pull that riff change-up trick again and again — not in some showy math-metal way, but because they seem like they’re just bursting with impatience to cause another pileup of human bodies. Ozone are two two EPs deep, but all their music has come out during the pandemic era. One day, hopefully soon, they’ll get a chance to let this shit detonate a room full of friends and strangers, and it will be beautiful. [From Ozone 2 EP, self-released, out now.]
Soul Glo – “Screamo Del Barrio” [Feat. Juanchizeta]
Soul Glo’s usual style is such a fractured eruption that it’s almost a revelation to hear them to something straight-ahead and melodic like this. It sounds tremendous. They’re still feverish and wordy and purposeful, and their intent hasn’t changed: “Even with crushed windpipes our voices can still sing. Generations of endless night can’t take our dignity. We built new emotions ourselves amidst atrocities which passed all assumed value when no one was looking.” But now they sound vast and overwhelming, like they’re ready to annihilate the world that they’ve never stopped confronting. [From Disnigga, Vol. 1 EP, out now on Epitaph.]
Whispers – “Morbid Vision”
Whispers are a Thai band, and they named “Morbid Visions,” the hardest song on their ridiculously hard new EP, after the debut album that Brazilian giants Sepultura released back in 1986, when they were still one of the world’s fastest thrash bands. Global connections, baby! Whispers don’t really sound too much like Sepultura, but they’ve got the same overwhelming, all-encompassing hardness that made Chaos AD sound like the scariest and best thing I’d ever heard when I was in eighth grade. [From Narok Bon Din EP, out now on Divided We Fall Records.]