Every few years, a hardcore band comes around that gets fans raving about “this great new band.” As a fan of the scene, I try and take notice whenever this comes up. There’s a lot of hardcore out there, and it’s difficult for bands to stand out as fresh and worthwhile when you’re working with such a simple formula. But if the buzz and raucous live footage is any evidence, it seems like Philadelphia’s Jesus Piece is the band to check out in 2018.
A good blast of songs like “Lucid” and “Neuroprison” (what a name!) should tell you why. This is some seriously crushing music, seemingly made to induce the most violent mosh pits possible. If those two songs aren’t enough for you, go ahead and let “Adamant” blow the doors off your house and come back me.
And it all comes together so well: the breakdowns hit at just the right time, the double bass kicks are right where they should be, and the guitar tone fits perfectly while having some more mids and fuzz than a lot of other modern hardcore. And then there’s Aaron Heard’s vocals. The man simply exists to make ferocious and unbelievably full-sounding vocals. Like a freight train from hell that shoots lightning. This lends power to the band’s mighty volleys against racism and injustice, coalescing into a blinding rage that screams out for human dignity.
Jesus Piece plays a satisfying brutal style of hardcore that rides several lines – beatdown, slam, metalcore – while still maintaining a consistent, recognizable feel. Which is why I’m a little puzzled by some of the commentary surrounding the band.
I’ve seen some writers pull Jesus Piece into the cadre of bands like Vein and Code Orange who appear to be embracing nü-metal. Call me crazy, but I don’t hear this on Only Self at all (or on those other two bands, to be honest). After giving this album multiple listens, I cannot, for the life of me, sense any trace of Life is Peachy or Wisconsin Death Trip. What am I missing?
Sure, there’s some weird electronic sounds used here and there, and a snarling bass that opens “Punish.” And if you squint hard enough, perhaps Aaron’s vocals resemble Corey Taylor’s a bit. This means there’s a nü-metal influence? Really? Take note, I never had a big Slipknot phase, so there could be some other sonic marker you guys all have that is totally lost on me.
I dig the 90s-looking album art though.
However, there is a VERY distinct echo of mid-to-late 2000s deathcore here. The vocals remind me a lot of Despised Icon (this is a good thing), while a lot of the guitar grooves and song constructions have an echo of The Acacia Strain at their best (3750 and The Dead Walk). Jesus Piece takes this sound, along with some sludge and death metal, and filters it through a prism of modern hardcore like Xibalba, Forced Order, Suburban Scum and Incendiary.
Speaking of sludge, the band’s blending of sludge into their brand of straightforward hardcore also resembles bands like Harm’s Way (as well as Converge, in their crunchier moments). This is especially true on “In the Silence,” the album’s centerpiece and most intricate song, along with the closing tracks “I” and “II.” This helps break up the album a bit among the relentless breakdown assaults.
Should the band add some more variation to their sound? I mean. I guess. But if you’re drinking a cup of black coffee (and staring at the walls) and are already enjoying it, why bother adding cream and sugar, or some gross coffee-mate thing? Just so you can tell your friends how “interesting” and “multidimensional” you are? Don’t bother. Go with something that works, go with Only Self.
Favorite Songs: “Lucid,” “In the Silence,” “Punish,” “Adamant” and “Dog No Longer”