The hardcore scene is a funny old thing. Typically, it’s big dudes in varsity jackets being really quite violent and thoroughly aggressive. At first, it would appear Hardside are following suit, but all is not as it seems. The record starts as expected: feedback going into a palm-muted riff and a half-time beat. There’s a couple of pinch harmonics thrown into the mix, which is almost Machine Head-esque and very much an interesting spin; the first signs of things being slightly different.
Returning to the generic hardcore formula, the beat picks up and the vocals kick in. So far, so good. The vocals are heavy and ballsy and full of anger, appropriate for the style of music. What is unexpected, however, is the change in vocal style towards the end of the track. The hellish screaming that I’ve already become accustomed to is replaced with a kind of cheesy, early 2000s metal, clean singing reminiscent of Spineshank and it almost instantly ruins the track. There was genuine shock upon the first listen and all that was running through my head was “what the hell were they thinking?”.
They’ve sacrificed this macho hardcore aggression and dominance, something that you’d see from bands such as Terror (who musically are also quite similar), for this whiney style of singing. I have to admit, it totally makes anything previous to that void, because now that’s all I can concentrate on. You may think this is a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s look at it a different way: if Celine Dion suddenly started pig-squealing, even if it was for just a few seconds, at the end of a track you’d understand the audience’s reaction. It’s a drastic change in styles that completely doesn’t fit and would ruin the song. Take the same theory and apply it to Hardside.
I work my way through the record and again and again this happens. Less inconspicuously too, now incorporating the clean vocals into choruses. You’d think that just the one element couldn’t negate the entire album, but it really does. Other than this ridiculous singing style, I thought it was a solid hardcore record, notable songs being the slightly slower ‘Grim Reality’, complete with an interesting guitar solo, the instrumental track ‘The Extermination’ and the finisher, ‘No Peace’.
I just can’t get past the clean vocals. It’s not even as though I’m not a fan of that style of singing in particular (it’s definitely not my favourite), it’s just that I can’t believe they made such a bad judgement when it came to the creative styles that they would incorporate. It seems unnecessary and detracts from the impact of what was otherwise a decent record.
Written by Jack Bastard
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.