Hardcore: Rage against the Mainstream

Student Oren Goldberg gives a review on two recent hardcore punk mini albums.

Before I give my reviews, I should explain a few things. Hardcore punk, or hardcore, as I’ll be refering to it from now on, is punk rock at its logical extreme. Hardcore is the fast, rebellious nature of punk with the intensity and guitar riffage of heavy metal. Since its inception in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, hardcore has been aiding to push the boundries of underground and extreme music. This couldn’t be more true in this day and age. Whether it be due to the rise of the internet, the fact that we were all stuck at home for a year, or a combination of both, it is a great time to be into this music. So, to you Merionite readers, I present to you two recent EPs (mini albums) that represent the extreme depths of the musical underground in recent years, in the best way.

Gel
I hate the term female fronted, but to truly capture the rage presented and emotion conveyed in the vocal style Gel is in, it becomes a must. From just over the bridge in the great state of New Jersey, Gel is here to stay. Emerging onto the scene around 2018, they quickly released a demo and a promo before hitting the road, however, just like every other band, the pandemic put it to a halt. But, in 2021, they came roaring back for their full length debut LP Violent Closure. The lyrics, which talk about issues like mental health, unhealthy relationships, and friendship troubles, bring in new, more introspective lyrical themes to a genre that has previously been known for men either screaming at you about the importance of brotherhood or about going vegan. Gel raged into 2022 with a national tour, and in August released another EP, called SHOCK THERAPY, which was split with a grimmy, lo-fi, hardcore band from Bucharest, Romania named Cold Brats. Focusing on the Gel side (although Cold Brats’ side is worth a listen), the EP is filled with attention grabbing metallic riffs and low grimy bass accompanied by gloriously shouty, rageful vocals. This EP is exactly what you would want and frankly what you’d expect out of the type of band I’ve just described. In particular the opening riff of the opening track–the first thing you hear when you put on the record–immediately pulls you in with a thrashing Metallica-esque riff. A pulsing drum hits before throwing the listener into a modernized, metaled-up take on old school California Hardcore (think Black Flag or the Germs). The four tracks are admittedly all very similar, but are still quite good. If you want sonic depth and variety in your hardcore, then perhaps SHOCK THERAPY isn’t your EP. But if you want ten minutes of fun, moshable, hardcore with a solid blend of old-school and new school sounds and surprisingly introspective lyrics, then Gel’s latest EP is for you. And, if you really like them, be sure to make the trip up to New York City on October 25 and catch them at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I can’t wait for Gel to get even bigger. All in all, I give it a solid 3.7/5. I liked a lot of what was going on, but I couldn’t help but feel the band was following a formula and not being creative enough.

World of Pleasure
October 17 is Edge Day. But wait, what’s Edge Day? Since its inception in the early 1980’s, Straight Edge subculture is a subsection of hardcore punk related to a life style which advocates abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs, and in certain cases promotes a vegan diet. Not only has Straight Edge permeated itself into every aspect of alternative culture,
it seems a new Straight Edge band pops up every day in the hardcore scene. But once a while, a true gem will appear. The newest example of this is World of Pleasure. The two piece from Canada features ex-members of Canadian hardcore stalwarts Mortallity Rate and Serration. They utilize cutsey Y2K-esque graphics one would expect from an artist like Grimes, niche Nintendo references, and various electronic samples ranging from 90’s computer noises to dance pioneers to contribute to their band’s overall image. But don’t let the colorful facade fool you, World of Pleasure is capital B brutal. Having formed in the midst of the pandemic and releasing their first demo shortly after in November of 2020, the Canadian duo quickly gained attention among the hardcore underground despite having never played a show. As pandemic restrictions lessened, shows started up again and slowly, word of the band got out. That brings us to World of Pleasure’s debut EP: World of Pleasure & Friends. The cover, which features a late 90’s, early 00’s fever dream nightmare of what looks to be canned Nintendo graphics from 1996,
perfectly encapsulates the captivative listening experience the listeners embark on. As soon as you hit play on the first track, “Domination 2,” you’re greeted with a sample from Super Mario 64 before a crushing onslaught of catchy, downtuned, slightly discordant riffs and a gloriously tingy snare drum bring its warm embrace. Then the vocals. Perfectly screamed with a rage and put in just the right spot in the mix that your body almost involuntarily starts headbanging. Yet, when you take a minute to catch your breath and give your neck a rest, you realize something. These lyrics have a message. The main themes are animal rights and individuality. Punk and hardcore are genres famous their artists taking a firm stance, yet still, it’s always great when an artist firmly stands by a certain set of values. While the tracks all, to an extent, follow a formula, the riffs are varied enough, unique enough, and especially, catchy enough that listening isn’t monotonous, even for the weakest of attention spans. If you love catchy, yet discordant, yet brutal hardcore music, post-ironic Y2K graphics, and want to be able to say, “I was into these guys before they were huge,” then, Canada’s finest, World Of Pleasure and their debut EP World of Pleasure & Friends is what you need in your life. This is one of the better EPs from anyone in the underground music world that I’ve heard in a while.
Final verdict: 4/5. I don’t believe World of Pleasure is starting a new era in music history, but I am confident that they will be a big deal. I hope that you will give these two EPs a listen and hopefully grow to love this style of music and its scene and share my passion for it.

Ilana Zahavy ’24

 

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