Division Of Mind And The Fine Art Of Seizing The Moment

Tom Breihan took this picture; that's why it sucks

Division Of Mind And The Fine Art Of Seizing The Moment

Tom Breihan took this picture; that's why it sucks

“Shit ain’t always going to be happening like this.” That was Zachary Acosta-Lewis, singer for almighty Richmond heavy-hardcore head-wreckers Division Of Mind, onstage last Thursday at a guerrilla Richmond spot that I will not name. Acosta-Lewis often reiterates some variation of that message while Division Of Mind are playing, and he always means it. His point is something like this: DIY scenes don’t just happen. They take work and commitment. People have to put in serious time, without any hope of financial reward and with the full knowledge that their spots could always get raided and shut down by police. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it — taking the sweaty fistfuls of cash at the door, cleaning up the empty bottles outside afterward, persistently reminding everyone at the show not to do anything that might bother the neighbors. When people don’t do that work, the shows don’t happen. When the shows don’t happen, a vital community simply ceases to exist.

Plenty of people make their livings playing hardcore, or playing some version of hardcore-adjacent music that can only exist because it comes from that community. Plenty of other people — booking agents, managers, label people, me sometimes — make our livings because other people are playing hardcore or hardcore-associated music. That’s a good thing, especially if your bank account depends on it. But DIY shows are not the farm-league systems that allow other people to get paid. DIY shows are ends unto themselves. We’re in a fascinating moment now where hardcore is getting tons of attention but many of the biggest and best hardcore bands out there — Fiddlehead, Incendiary, Mindforce — don’t often tour because the band members have other things going on in their lives. Other bands do tour, but they do it in rusty vans, going from DIY spot to DIY spot, same as it ever was. Those bands need places to play, and sometimes they need to remind the audiences that those spaces, and that energy, must be maintained.

Division Of Mind aren’t a giant band like the ones I mentioned in that last paragraph, but they still belong in the not-pro category. They have lives. They have other bands. In his other life, Zachary Acosta-Lewis is a college professor, so it’s kind of remarkable that his onstage reminders never come off as lectures. (I’m basing this on nothing, but I get the sense that he’s good at his job.) A few moments after his mini-speech, he reminded the crowd not to fight at the show — not because violence is wrong but because it can endanger the thing that he was talking about. He suggested going to meet up elsewhere after the gig. Every time I’ve seen DOM live, they’ve changed the room’s atmosphere from the first feedback-shriek. When they’re playing, it feels like the world comes into focus. My senses sharpen. My awareness heightens. Something flows through me. That feeling is not part of a larger story about genre and business and pro-versus-amateur scene tussles. It is its own thing, its own reward.

People always go off to Division Of Mind. That band understands the physical effect of a slowed-down thud-riff, a perfectly timed bark-roar. On record, they play around with dark, murky samples and effects. In person, they simply explode. I don’t really mosh, but when people swing feet and elbows or jump off each other’s backs during DOM sets, it makes perfect sense to me. It’s the natural response to the sound that they make. DOM haven’t put out any music since their self-titled full-length more than four years ago, but the feelings is still there, and they new songs that they played on Thursday are full-on ass-beaters. The next DOM record, whatever form it takes, is going to cave skulls in.

I happened to catch DOM during a weirdly busy period. Earlier this year, Zachary Acosta-Lewis’ old band Hard Stripes played a couple of rapturously received reunion sets, first at Florida’s FYA Fest and then back in Richmond. On Thursday, DOM happened to be playing the second of three Richmond shows in the space of one week. A few nights earlier, a headlining gig had to be moved at the last minute because another DIY venue got shut down. The night after I saw them, they shared a stage with local underground rap legend Nickelus F, and I wish I could’ve gone to that one, too. On Thursday, DOM weren’t the band at the top of the flyer, but they played last, and they were clearly the reason that a lot of people were in that half-full room.

The band at the top of the flyer was California’s Diztort, who I first saw six years earlier, when they played a Damaged City fest aftershow with the Flex, Skourge, and Enforced. (That’s a fucking bill.) I wasn’t going to many hardcore shows at the time, and I was struck by how all the singers of those bands were big, diesel motherfuckers and how most of the bands had at least one guitarist in a Sepultura or Bolt Thrower shirt. Diztort were the only band who bucked that shirt trend, since everyone in the band was wearing Diztort shirts, like a uniform. At the time, I wrote that Diztort singer Trent reminded me of Mark Wahlberg.

Trent doesn’t remind me of Mark Wahlberg anymore. His hair is long, his beard has grown in, and he didn’t take his shirt off during Thursday’s show, though he still looks ripped. The band members weren’t all wearing Diztort shirts, either. Instead, they looked like guys who have spent the past few weeks living in a rusty van, which seems like an exhausting experience. But the sheer force of Diztort’s groove remains.

Last year, Diztort came back with their album Vengeance Is Mine, right at the moment when I assumed that the band had quietly broken up during lockdown. Shit ain’t always going to be happening like this. Hardcore is ephemeral. The breakdown, the best part of most hardcore songs, lasts maybe 45 seconds, and if you don’t react immediately, you’ll miss it. Sometimes, though, a band sticks around longer than you think they will, and it’s great to have Diztort still out there, cranking out bulldozer riffs and hard-shredding solos. Diztort’s music is built on a giant, all-conquering sense of rhythm, with guitars and vocals and everything else organized around the percussive power of their riffage. When they’re at their best, nobody hits that groove harder.

Groove is not the point of Collateral, a relatively new Florida band that’s been building up a lot of underground buzz lately. Instead, Collateral play fast and sloppy, with a hammering immediacy that’s basically unchanged from hardcore’s ’80s beginnings. Collateral’s feral bruiser shit is a blast — the sort of thing that you immediately and instinctively understand. Their drummer is a monster, and their sense of speed never lets up. Though most of the band members have been in different groups, you can tell that they haven’t all been playing together for too long, but I can easily imagine them gelling into an absolute juggernaut down the road.

Richmond openers Dimension Six are a new band, too, but they’re made up entirely of people who I recognize from shows, and they already seem totally locked-in. (Killing Pace played on Thursday, too, but I missed them for reasons too embarrassing to disclose here.) (Fine: I had to run off and take a dump in a McDonald’s bathroom.) Dimension Six have been around less than a year, with a demo and a promo tape to their name, but they know what they’re doing. They pursue a platonic ideal of New York-style hardcore, and they play it with drive and intent and physicality. They kick ass.

If Dimension Six make it to bigger stages, they’ll kick ass there, too. If not, that’s fine. Everything doesn’t have to be a stepping stone. On this level, people play this music because they love doing it. The singer — I think he told me his name is Kenny — moshed for every other band on the bill, just like someone who knows that shit ain’t always going to be happening like this.

Bad Beat – “Not Like You”

It’s cool when singers in hardcore bands sound like 400-pound prison-yard shot callers who have tattoos on the insides of their eyelids, and it’s also cool when hardcore bands have singers who sound like whiny, sarcastic 14-year-olds who are complaining about their moms revoking their phone privileges. Somehow, Detroit’s Bad Beat have both, which means they might be the coolest hardcore band of all time. It’s just science. [From LP 2024, out 5/10 on Triple B Records.]

Burning Lord – “We Move The Earth”

It’s late at night, cold and a little rainy, and you’re walking down an empty city street by yourself. Maybe the bar just closed. Maybe you’re on your way back to your hotel room. You’re tired, and there’s a lot on your mind, and you just want to get where you’re going and collapse into bed. Suddenly, a gnarled hand reaches up from a storm drain and pulls you under. The twisted race of below-dwellers cannot speak your language, but once the initial terror subsides, you come to understand that they’ve been watching you. They know you. They know that you’re not really the human that you’ve spent your entire life pretending to be. They know that you’re one of them, and now you know it, too. Your old life is over. You live here now. This song sounds like that. [From Arcane Demolition, out now on Streets Of Hate.]

Candy – “eXistenZ”

I wanted to love Heaven Is Here, Candy’s last album, but I just couldn’t make it click. It was so cool in theory — deranged batshit hardcore mutants get into industrial music and blow their sound out into something even more apocalyptic — but I just didn’t have that much fun listening to it. Candy remained a drooling bloodthirsty monsterbeast of a live act; it’s just that the industrial thing felt like a dead end. It wasn’t. This song is brutal perfection. It sounds like Ministry and Integrity teaming up in 1995, or maybe like the thing that Code Orange have been trying and failing to do for years now. If Candy are capable of doing this much damage in 81 seconds, their new album is likely to be a motherfucker. [From It’s Inside You, out 6/7 on Relapse Records.]

Deal With God – “(I And I) The Inmost Fight”

I need to know more about what’s happening at Ephyra. The Northeast label seems to have this interrelated and extremely young core of ultra-serious bands — Balmora, XNomadX, Domain, Thus Spoke Zarathustra — playing epic old-school metalcore that sounds big enough to level stadiums. How does that happen? And how does it happen all at once? Syracuse’s Deal With God seem to be named after a Kate Bush lyric, and this song title seems to be about Rastafarian internal struggle, which seems vaguely pretentious. But then I hear the song and feel the immediate need to chokeslam a fully grown Bengal tiger. Nothing pretentious about that. [From The Bitter Die Hard EP, out now on Ephyra.]

Desmadre – “Clownin’ Around” (Feat. Xibalba’s Nathan Rebelledo)

When we’ve got this crew of evil clowns running around in real life, we don’t really need another Joker movie. [Stand-alone single, self-released, out now.]

Doubt – “Delusion”

Baltimore’s coming back with a bang, still knuckle-draggin’ like it ain’t no thang, etc. I have said this before, but hardcore basically did not exist in my hometown when I was a kid. We had Torn Apart and Bridgewater, who played punk shows and kicked ass, but they felt like a fairly isolated thing. I guess we also had Next Step Up, but I had no idea that they existed. Baltimore was a crust and street-punk town, and I did not even get into proper hardcore until I went off to college in Syracuse. It continues to blow my mind that Baltimore now exists at the absolute epicenter of everything in the genre today. Every few months, new Baltimore bands seem to come out and obliterate everyone. This Doubt track is a textbook example of how one song can wrench your neck around and force you to take a new band seriously. I haven’t lived in Baltimore for many years, and I played zero part in this, so it would be stupid and condescending for me to be proud of what’s happening. But fuck it. I’m proud anyway. [Stand-alone single, out now on Get Better Records.]

Mindz Eye – “Raw Deal”

A good rule of thumb: Anytime you see a hardcore band name where they use a Z instead of an S, hit play immediately. Even if it sucks, it will still make you want to fight someone. Colorado’s Mindz Eye fundamentally do not suck. They destroy, which means their music makes you want to fight everyone, to the point where you’re reenacting the Oldboy hammer scene in the Kroger cereal aisle. There’s some bouncy Turnstile-style catchiness to “Raw Deal,” but Turnstile want you to joyously jump around and love your fellow human. Mindz Eye want you to break a bathroom sink with a motherfucker’s face. There’s a difference. [From The Vision, self-released, out now.]

No Right – “‘Til It Hurts”

I have never been as angry about anything as No Right singer Sierra Stark is about (I think) people not being straight edge. I envy her for that. When you’re this mad about anyone or anything, the world must look so crisp and clear. Every shape and every line must be so defined. The air must taste so good. You must leave the house every morning with such a sense of purpose burning in your soul. It sounds so nice. [From 2024 Promo, self-released, out now.]

Terminal Nation – “Written By The Victor” (Feat. Nails’ Todd Jones)

Strange things happen in hardcore. The genre is concentrated enough that a small, committed group of people can change the narrative for their entire region and maybe even for hardcore in general. One example: Little Rock, Arkansas probably has the heaviest scene in America right now, and that’s mostly down to Terminal Nation and their group of friends. Terminal Nation’s fusion of hardcore and death metal is more brutal and compelling than anything this side of Xibalba, and they’re currently in the middle of taking what could be a huge step up. This song sounds like skeletons imploding. If things get any heavier, Little Rock should change its name to Big Rock. [From Echoes Of The Devil’s Den, out 5/3 on 20 Buck Spin.]

Vientre – “Declive”

There’s a certain guitar tone that only screamo bands seem to use anymore. It’s this reverby-strummy thing that’s full of tension, perfect for the moment on the song when you’re ready for everything to explode. The Dead Kennedys used a tone like that on the “California Über Alles” verses, and it’s so effective. More bands should use that tone. On this track, Colombia’s Vientre use that tone, and then they let it build into a stormy froth and deescalate into an anxious comedown without ever quite offering the relief of a true hammer-drop. Instead, they live within the space of that tension. Sometimes, things don’t explode the way that you might want. Sometimes, the tension just stays on simmer forever. [From Ning​ú​n Humano Es Ilegal compilation, out now on Star Rats Records.]

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