Empire Productions Presents!
Terror, Harms Way, Backtrack, Year of the Knife, Candy, Enforced
Hardcore veterans, Terror, joined the Victory Records roster with a bang, unleashing Live By The Code in April of 2013. The lyrics, paired with the album's extensive layout laid out to music fans worldwide what it meant to truly live your life by "the codes" of hardcore. Supporting the genre community, sticking to your roots, and delivering the truth - these and much more illustrated what it really means to be in the hardcore family.
For centuries we lived without fear of repercussion, as our greed and depravity has driven us to our collapse. We have lost all compassion for our fellow man and abused everything in sight. The 25th Hour is upon us.
Terror formed in 2002 as a direct reaction to what was occurring in the underground musical scene that they called home. Disgusted with what was being presented and passed off as hardcore, they attempted to reclaim the bastardized genre by playing the music as it had originated; in it's most raw, honest and angry form. Immediately, there was a connection with likeminded people across the globe, and led the band to continually play shows all over the world. Terror started as an idea, but quickly turned into a crusade. Terror captured the ferocity that the genre had been missing, and with their amazing work ethic and nihilistic approach to touring, they became the hardcore flag-bearers of this generation.
Terror's last few albums created movements immediately upon their release. The titles summed up the current climate of hardcore music and served as a rally cry for all its believers. Their new album follows this same suit. The current incarnation of the band, which features the longest tenured lineup in their history, assembled last fall with one intent: to act defiantly in "The 25th Hour". If this is truly our potential climax, all would be stripped away and we would return to our most basic form. Terror consciously mimicked this urgency, and returned to their roots on their newest release. They acted without a producer, and cumulatively crafted The 25th Hour together. If it was too long, it was trimmed down. If it was too slow, it was sped up. If it had nothing to say, it was thrown away. Every song was deliberately manifested to exude the desperation, immediacy and passion of the early days of the band. Once recorded, the album was then mixed by Tom Soares, who had engineered or mixed some of hardcore's most influential artists such as Judge, Leeway, The Cro Mags, Agnostic Front, Sick of It All, and Killing Time. This put the final critical touches on Terror's latest musical statement. With the album now completed, Terror will go back to what they do best - performing live. They plan to continue their 13-year legacy of decimating all stages they come in contact with and spread their truth to all corners of the world.
Is our doom imminent, or can we reverse the savagery that lies within our DNA? Is it too late to create change? Will we rise or fall when "The 25th Hour" strikes?
Harms Way's metallic hardcore has won them fans on four continents; their reputation for delivering blistering sets cannot be overstated, and their timely lyrics about struggle, personal growth and self-awareness leave a lasting impression upon any listener. Having grown with each subsequent release, Posthuman, their fourth full-length - and Metal Blade Records debut - is a devastating addition to their catalog. "We've always stayed true to who we are and allowed the songwriting process to take shape organically from record to record, and as the band has progressed, our sound has become more refined with metal and industrial influences," states drummer Chris Mills, while guitarist Bo Lueders succinctly sums up what people can expect when they first spin the record: "To a Harms Way fan, I would describe 'Posthuman' as a blend of 'Isolation' (2011) and 'Rust' (2015), but it's sonically way more insane. To anyone else, I would simply say it's full on heavy and full on aggression."
It is perhaps surprising, given their vitality, that Harms Way was initially a side project for members of Chicago hardcore crew Few And The Proud. In 2007, a year after the unit's inception, they dropped their first 7", Imprisoned, and in 2008 they unleashed their self-titled 7" - at that stage already showing dramatic signs of growth beyond the power violence sound characterizing their earliest material. It was at this juncture the members realized that they had something that had deeper potential - and meaning - than whatever they first envisaged, and as they began to draw in fans, everyone started to take things far more seriously. Having endured some substantial lineup changes over the years, Mills, Lueders and vocalist James Pligge have remained the beating heart and driving force in the band, and, while their following has grown with every release, Rust was a true turning point. "'Rust' is still a record that we are incredibly proud of, and in many ways it helped us to get to where we are today, since the response to that record was essentially what made us decide to make a full-time commitment to this band," explains Mills. "It opened up many doors for us and allowed us to connect with people in ways we weren't really expecting, and we toured that record relentlessly." With bassist Casey Soyk and second guitarist Nick Gauthier coming into the band's ranks prior to work commencing on Posthuman, the quintet were never going to merely recycle the record that had won the hearts of so many people, determined to keep pushing forward and only making the music they want to. That they realized their goal of crafting something even heavier and more aggressive is evident from the get go: opener "Human Carrying Capacity" a titanic force in its own right, thunderous anti-anthems "Sink", "Become A Machine" and "Unreality" every bit as powerful. However, the band don't rely on sheer, unwavering, brute force; industrial elements frequently imbuing the songs with haunting atmospheres, and contributions from their newest members bestowing "Temptation" and "The Gift" with a pronounced and affecting eeriness. "'Temptation' was a brainchild of Chris and Nick that really came together in the studio," Lueders says. "While 'The Gift' was the work of Casey in collaboration with our producer Will Putney (The Acacia Strain/The Amity Affliction). We flew him out to the studio for a couple of days and they produced one of my favorite songs on the record. Both that song and 'Temptation' are just following the mantra of doing exactly whatever we want with our project."
The title, Posthuman, aptly summarizes the themes of the record, reflecting a sense of not feeling like a part of the world anymore, whether that be politically, socially, ethically, or emotionally. "It very much pulls from ideas of transcendence, progression, and resilience", Mills elaborates, "and it's very much a push back on traditional ideas of the self and self-actualization. 'Posthuman' to us is about progressing above and beyond the confines of what is considered human, in the physical, psychological, and categorical sense." Across the record this is borne out by Pligge's lyrics, which can be understood as a critique of human behavior and the human condition as a whole, given the absurd and constructed nature of reality in contemporary society. "Human Carrying Capacity" comments on overpopulation, and the consequences to both the environment and health due to such high rates of production and consumption, while "Become A Machine" sets its sights on our technological obsessions. "It's about how over-dependent society has become on technology and how such technological advancements, when placed in the wrong hands, can be destructive and catastrophic. The song also looks to critique whether all technology is really as beneficial as we might think," Pligge explains, while on weighty closer "Dead Space" he takes a grounded, insightful approach to philosophical and existential matters that in varying ways affect all human beings. "It's essentially about how we go through life experiencing pain, suffering, trauma and many other negative emotions, and it asks why? For what reasons? The song hones in on the realization that we will all pass away into what I believe to be the end of our own consciousness, or any other theoretical physical space. It highlights the idea that our purpose in life unfortunately means nothing, and we are just a cosmic mistake that will eventually be forgotten. It's essentially a refutation of the idea that there is some grand design and greater purpose for being here on Earth."
With producer Putney overseeing the tracking at Graphic Nature Audio in Belleville, New Jersey, Posthuman came together easily and fluidly. Having three weeks to track it - the longest they have ever spent on a single full-length - was definitely beneficial. "We spent the first three days there doing pre-production and refining the songs to be the best possible versions of themselves," says Mills. "The amount of time we had in creating this record meant we were able to experiment and not have to rush with any aspect of it, and I feel it shows in the end product." An intense touring campaign will see the band taking the songs into venues around the world throughout 2018 and beyond, the quintet at their best when unleashed on a stage. Having played not only in North America and Europe but Australia, Japan, and other parts of Southeast Asia - and touring with heavy hitters such as Converge, Soulfly, Every Time I Die and At The Gates, plus playing France's legendary Hellfest in 2016 - the Chicagoans are nothing but humble about their achievements. "We never thought we'd have the opportunity to see the places that we have through the band, but we've been afforded that privilege through our hard work and the growth in our fan base. To now also be a part of Metal Blade, a label with such rich history in the world of aggressive music, is truly an honor," Mills states. Likewise, when it comes to the future, they remain typically grounded yet characteristically passionate. "I don't know if we have ever had a goal with the band, aside from making heavy music," Lueders says. "I think ultimately my personal goal is what has characterized our band over the last ten years: I want to tour the Earth and make heavy, aggressive music with my best friends, because so far it's been a pleasure every day."
Breakdown; Madball; Raw Deal; Kill Your Idols: arguable institutions of New York hardcore throughout the last 25 years. It's a lineage Backtrack have been mindful of since forming in January 2008, long after the seeds were already sown for a distinct strain of hardcore with rougher edges and sometimes unusual, esoteric ideologies (granted, you' re not likely to find any right-wing principles or Krishna hymns amid Backtrack’s noise). After all, it was easy to gauge the band's appreciation for NYHC heritage from their 2008 demo, a standout gem of the late 2000s Long Island hardcore scene that helped quickly amass a local and not long after, national following.
But as the band have progressed from there, releasing records on notable, reliable hardcore labels like 6131 (2009's Deal with the Devil EP) and Reaper (2011's Darker Half), while touring the globe with veterans like Comeback Kid, Terror and Cold World, and played multiple festivals along the way (This Is Hardcore, United Blood, an infamous Sound & Fury 2010 appearance), so too have their musical ambitions.
"We're definitely influenced by all different types of hardcore bands," says guitarist/vocalist Ricky Singh, who documented his five favorite albums of 2013 in a recent year-end feature (he primarily recommends Take Offense's United States of Mind and Down to Nothing's Life on the James), “but] tons of bands that aren't hardcore too. And it shows a little bit in the music.”
Granted, their latest statement, 2014's Lost In Life remains firmly entrenched in traditional hardcore structures. Backtrack may not be coloring fully outside the lines, but the album assuredly has its share of tastefully stray marks (check the surprising chorus harmony on “Wash Away”, or the spooky atmosphere clouding the intro to “Tortured”), while sharpening the band's hard sound into a dynamic, hook-laden overdrive. Thanks to a reconvening with Darker Half producer and Terror drummer Nick Jett, Backtrack were able to concoct a collection of material that proves more memorable and striking than past efforts.
"He definitely helps with vocal hooks and patterns," Singh notes. "It was something that we were going for. I wouldn't say it's a necessity, but we wanted the songs to be stuck in people's heads and have them singing along, knowing the words a lot easier."
Lost In Life also takes more of its creators' varied opinions and tastes into consideration. “It's definitely hard having five people come to the table and getting everybody's ideas down,” Singh explains, “and trying to compromise ideas with other people and making shit work, so that was kind of a challenge.”
Such communicative outreach and prolific songwriting (the band wrote upwards of 20 songs and self-taught computer demo recording techniques in preparation) seems to have affected themselves for the better: Fans will likely find Lost In Life more accessible than its catalogic predecessors, but revel in its nonetheless hard demeanor contrasted by frontman James Vitalo's open-dialogue themes of personal identity, social alienation and finding solace in struggle and challenge and Singh's increasingly indelible, crunchy riffs.
In partnering with Bridge Nine, Backtrack looks to benefit from the wider exposure and take advantage of the label's rounded full-time focus. “Bridge Nine is cool because [it's a] whole department of different people together [getting] shit done, Singh says. “We want somebody who's going to really push the record and be able to have the time to do that.”
With that, the only thing left for Backtrack is fulfilling their world-traveler ambitions. “At first we didn't really have any goals,” Singh recalls of the band's formative period. “We just wanted to tour and put out music that we liked, and I guess as we toured more and started putting out more records and stuff, we just wanted to start playing in different places that we haven't played before.” Backtrack's looking to visit South America, Hawaii, Mexico and Russia in support of Lost In Life, and make new appearances at previously unplayed festivals in Europe. “Touring with different types of bands that we haven't toured with before is always something that we'd like to do,” he adds as well. As the band continue to grow into a leading role as ambassadors for the modern wave of NYHC revival (with a subtly creative flair), they'd be faithful and powerful delegates.