As our boss’ band is going on tour with the Tucson, Arizona’s Powerviolence heavy players, Sex Prisoner for their first European experience, I thought the timing was good to review their latest LP. If one of you European head wants to attend one of the shows and don’t have a clue of what you’re about to witness, it could come in handy.
Powerviolence is a touchy subject for me. It’s among one of my favorite types of hardcore, and like 90’s metalcore, I always try to expend my knowledge as much as possible which turns me into a picky sour grape sometimes. Especially when it comes to LPs.
Writing a Powerviolence LP is a hard task in my opinion. Because unlike “regular” hardcore records, you sometimes have to write twice more songs to make it worth releasing on a 12’’ due to the ridiculously short length of some tracks. Unlike grindcore records, you can’t hide behind the heavy musicianship metal requiries, because in my opinion, that’s what separates grindcore from Powerviolence. Just the same than Metal from Hardcore. In both cases, the point is to avoid being boring, repetitive or worse, embarrassing.
Spazz, Infest and DropDead are for me, the kind of bands that succeeded at reaching that goal without any doubt. As a result they are my point of reference to analyse other Powerviolence LPs. Read here: they found the correct formula to create interesting fast/short music without being sketchy or just plain boring.
The “problem” with Sex Prisoner, is that they are spearheading this new wave of Powerviolence, with big names like Weekend Nachos and ACxDC. It’s an important point to keep in mind since, with their previous records, they changed how this whole genre of hardcore sounds. But on the other hand, they are still a spawn of these 3 aforementioned bands, meaning that with this first LP, they are still on proving ground. They are the craftsmen of the evolution Powerviolence is going through but they also need to confirm they can go past the LP challenge.
Another thing to consider is that their previous releases were on labels like To Live A Lie Records and Bad Teeth Recordings, which in this PV game are already high level labels and an immediate quality seal. This new LP was released through Deep Six Records, which is the kind of labels I trust blindly. With all that in hands, it sounds like an unbeatable success.
To begin with, the name of the LP is great. A reference to Blade Runner is easily grappling me, and it’s the kind of things I could buy even though the band would be unknown to me. At this point, I didn’t even spin the LP yet but I was already hooked.
If this new wave of Powerviolence is reknown for something, it’s for the heaviness, the sludgy down tempo parts and the muddy sound. Sex Prisoner is indeed a prime example of it, since 2009 they are bringing the heaviest guitar sound they can possibly do. But where they differ from other big names in the PV genre is that they still kept a light punk vibe. Compared to Weekend Nachos for instance, you can reckon they tried to incorporate something more than just sheer heaviness. That was their touch, keeping that punk spirit close. Or closer than the others do.
Damn, I wasn’t disappointed there. They put some more mud in the sound while paying a good homage to the classics (read Discharge regarding this LP) which is what I’m waiting for when I see « Sex Prisoner » written on a record. So we still got the blasts, the braindead down tempos and the crust. What could go wrong ?
Let’s say that a track like « Lullaby » is a prime example of being wrong to me. I pay a lot of attention to original ideas, to new stuff coming from outside the hardcore realm and how it’s incorporated. And I have literally no problem with bands taking inspiration from the True Norwegian Black Metal and its tortured riffs, as long as it doesn’t sounds cheap or misplaced. In this case, and as it’s in the middle of the LP, it is puzzling. Once again I admire the effort of trying, but it sound a bit like they weren’t sure of what they were doing and threw it there like “well, whatever happens happens”. Like a chicken manipulating a uranium bar somehow.
That was my opinion until « Church Key » hit me. This might be my favorite song from the LP, because this is typically the kind of things I want to hear on a LP : using influences outside hardcore and nailing them like it’s natural. This intro riff and the following one are amazing. They are well thought out and over all, they don’t sound like second hand “original” ideas. but like they knew what they were doing. Coupled to those classic down tempos, it’s just the perfect combination to create some “yo, we matured” material ; LP material. The downside is that they only tryed it twice and only one of them worked fine.
But, given the fact I can’t deplore any filler song and the general quality of the LP is really high, I easily pass through those little disappointments. Because for me, they nailed it. They nailed the LP trial. They literally set an example for the new generation on how to write modern Powerviolence. Riffs are great. Just heavy enough and avoiding the disgusting ignorant “we play heavy riffs for no reasons” attitude. The quality of the sound production is on point, not too clean but yet pretty understandable.
And the lyrics. You can see Kevin Kennedy tried to step his game up and that’s really interesting if you compare to their other material. I’m also glad they experimented with the sound in general. They made it noisier, gloomier but didn’t fall into the trap of an overproduced record nonetheless.
If I was pretty much optimistic about this record, I’m definitely satisfied with what I listened to. It’s not an “at least I haven’t been let down” release, for me it’s a really good release. It shows that hardcore can evolve and we certainly didn’t go full circle with it, even though there are some little problems here and there with failed experimentations. They definitely didn’t stick to what they knew, or stayed in their comfort zone, and brought some fresher ideas to the mix with this full length. Last year, it was definitely in my top ten, and it’s totally a record that will withstand the test of time for me.
Get the LP on the store
Label : Deep Six Records / RSR Records
Year : 2016
11.Cauldron Of Hate
12.Lamp Lighter Inn
FFO : Crossed Out / Hatred Surge / Infest
Based in Strasbourg, France
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