Birmingham has never really been at the epicentre of a music scene and it’s pretty rare a band manages to escape this stigma. There’s been a few for sure, it’s not like Birmingham is a totally fruitless tree, I mean who could forget Napalm Death? It’s just not very often that something hits the ground worth saving compared to say Sheffield, London or even Manchester. The Catharsis and their debut album, ‘Romance’, are turning this around though. They’ve fought their way into the elite, shook off the preconceptions and become one of the finest hardcore outfits to be exported from Birmingham in the last few years.
‘Romance’ begins with a distorted bass riff that’s showered in swirling feedback and distant screams until it drops into an almost post-hardcore breakdown that lifts you up with every discord and smashes you back to earth with sheer punk brutality. A clarity, that hasn’t yet been seen, then comes into the vocals as everything drops back for the opening line “This is a funeral”, a bold statement to start an album off, but one that certainly works. There’s emotion in every word from this opening line right to the album’s finish. It’s obviously fitting with the band’s name and it’s the kind of emotion that fans will identify with and recognise as they search to find their own deeper meaning in the lyrical content.
Emotion is clearly displayed in a belligerent and aggressive way throughout the entire album, and it isn’t until the acoustic outro of ‘Styx’ that we see a lighter side. Even this lighter side manages to unsettle though, as the haunting guitar and vocal combo end the tracks anticipation inducing verses that came beforehand. A level of expectancy is something that’s seen in other tracks such as ‘Stray Dogs’ as the punk driven drums begin the track and lure you into the question of when will it drop? When it does, it’s a Rottweiler of a track with its powerfully dark lyrics, vicious sounds and razor sharp teeth.
‘Romance’ hardly stops to breathe throughout; it thrashes its way through the ten tracks and any moment of rest or downtime is brief as you’re thrown back into the circle pit rhythms of the other tracks. It’s undeniably a hardcore/punk crossover album and it wears this on its metaphorical sleeve, there are times when certain elements aren’t particularly original but they’re done to such a high calibre within the genre that this doesn’t even become an issue. In complete contradiction to this there are also elements that will surprise you; ‘Leave Me Here’ makes use of some almost gothic, bordering on Nick Cave vocals that set to a bed of weird effect driven guitars show you that there’s clearly progression in the hearts and minds of The Catharsis.
There’s almost no point in comparing The Catharsis to any similar bands that you may or may not like because if you understand anything written above you already know. They’re a credit to their hometown and maybe now, on the back of great records like this, it’s time to look a little closer at the Midlands.
Written by Shaun Cole