By A Textbook Tragedy
Often mentioned in the same breath as Architects and Misery Signals, the latest EP from Canada's A Textbook Tragedy has a rougher, more 'live' feel than the recorded output of either of those bands. This is likely to split opinion as, on the one hand, 'Rain City State Of Mind' has that edgy energy of a live hardcore show, but it also means that most of these songs sound messy and confused. Diehard fans of hardcore gigs, who always complain about that live energy being lost in studio production, are going to rave about 'Rain City State Of Mind.' Everyone else is probably going to be left with a massive headache.
A Textbook Tragedy aren't about to ease the listener in slowly, kicking off with a maelstrom of blastbeat drumming, stop-start, twisted riffs and booming deathcore vocals. EP-opener 'Destroyed In Seconds' does occasionally settle into something resembling a tune (or as close to a tune as hardcore ever gets) but, for the most part, 'Destroyed In Seconds' is an uncompromising blast of raw noise. A Textbook Tragedy make Gallows, The Ghost of A Thousand, and even Architects sound polished. While this may appeal to fans of extreme, 'live'-sounding hardcore, it's likely to alienate the majority.
'Destroyed In Seconds's hardcore clatter does occasionally hone itself into a neat hook. A scattering of twisted riffs pull the song into brief, unusual shapes; and the breakdown features shed loads of jet-black riffs that fall like two tonne weights, not to mention a blood-curdlingly evil end-section where co-vocalist and guitarist Kai Turnmann sounds nothing short of inhuman. But, for all these fleeting moments of reigned-in anger, 'Destroyed In Seconds' ultimately sounds more like the aural equivalent of a tantrum, rather than music.
While all hardcore bands do have a tendency to sound samey, by second track 'White Lightening' it becomes clear that A Textbook Tragedy sound more samey than most. 'White Lightening' uses the same formula of blastbeat drumming and galloping riffs that twist into quick, tortured shapes, as first track 'Destroyed In Seconds.' And, once more, 'White Lightening' reigns that wildly flailing anger into a doomy breakdown that's terrifying in its intensity. So far, so carbon copy of 'Destroyed In Seconds.'
Thankfully, despite the similarities 'White Lightening' does eventually strike it out on its own. Its two-hundred-miles-an-hour headrush of pulsing guitar, blastbeats and a vocal ricochet between Turnmann and main vocalist Chris Bahris is guaranteed to send your adrenal gland into overdrive. Even better, A Textbook Tragedy slicken up their sound with a sleek gallop for the finish line, which sounds all the more ferocious for its touch of self-control.
'White Lightening' takes 'Destroyed In Seconds' as its starting point, and then improves on it.
And, continuing on a theme, EP-highlight 'What's Pit Beef?' takes 'White Lightening' and improves on that. It's the only song on this five track effort that manages to hold it together for the entirety. A base of chuggy guitars has a unifying effect on 'What's Pit Beef?'s frenetic riffing, preventing it from descending into chaos. Even when A Textbook Tragedy lay off the chugging guitars, they bring in chainsaw riffs that cut through that clattering hardcore, and give the listener something coherent to cling to amongst all the noise. Even the blastbeat drumming, which can potentially make a song sound exactly the same from start to finish, is used to original effect, as bursts of blastbeats ricochet off groaning riffs. It's a combination guaranteed to get venues full of people pogo-ing manically, when this gets a live airing.
With 'Lincoln City,' A Textbook Tragedy shorten their riffs to deliver short, sharp, hammer-like blows designed to give any gig-goer foolhardy enough to try and keep up, sever whiplash. It's only a slight tweaking of A Textbook Tragedy's usual quick, shambolic riffing, but 'Rain City State Of Mind' is the sort of EP where you'll latch onto even the smallest difference. Once again, A Textbook Tragedy deliver when it comes to the breakdown, this time giving those riffs a twitchier, more jigging rhythm, which may just sound like the most melodic, grooviest thing you've ever head, after so much angry noise.
'Lincoln City' may be more 'bog standard hardcore' than 'What's Pit Beef?' but it redeems itself with a handful of standout moments, in particular that hooky breakdown section.
EP-closer 'The West Coast Answer' has moments where it begins to sound almost doom metal, as A Textbook Tragedy take it down a notch with ponderous guitars and dragging drumbeats. Although brief, these doomy sections bring some controlled, smouldering rage to A Textbook Tragedy's free-wheeling anger, and ensure 'The West Coast Answer' is distinguishable from the other four tracks.
'Rain City State Of Mind' is an EP solely for fans of the noisier, messier, more extreme end of the hardcore spectrum. Just because you dabble in accessible hardcore such as Gallows and The Ghost of a Thousand, doesn't mean you're ready for A Textbook Tragedy. 'What's Pit Beef?' has its own distinct sound, but the rest of this five track effort, does have a tendency to blur into one.