In my humble opinion, the key thing in metallic hardcore is getting the balance right of seriousness and fun. There has to be a sincerity in the performances, but you don’t want to end up too overwrought that the indelible sense of freedom and fun in hardcore is lost. As much as you need raging vocals, explosive guitar tones and intense drums, you also need beats that move you, a voice you can scream back to, and riffs that make you grin from ear to ear while swirling, stomping or two-stepping your way through the pit. You need passion and personality as much as you need darkness and ferocity.
The best and most endearing metallic hardcore albums are often those that do both at the same time: Firestorm, Jane Doe, Gutter Phenomenon, Perseverance, Miss Machine, One With The Underdogs… all very different, but all records that get this balance right in their own unique ways. They’re also albums which set a certain tone with the recent crop of stand-out players in metallic hardcore, the likes of Knocked Loose, Jesus Piece, Code Orange, Year Of The Knife, Harms Way etc. Blue Ox might actually have been around for more than a decade, and their members have history playing in hardcore bands far beyond this too, but with Holy Vore they feel like a band sitting squarely within the current metallic hardcore zeitgeist.
The album kicks off with no introduction, jumping straight into the opening blasts of It Doesn’t Work, a track that moves between downtuned classic hardcore riffs and face-melting deathcore chugs. There’s a tremendous sense of rhythmic dynamics here, and the band clearly know how to meld different tempos in order to craft an enduring energy from minimal elements.
Imploding Lazarus has some more chaotic riffs and melodies that take a heavy influence from the darker melodeath bands. The breakdown is ridiculously wild but perfectly executed, the kind that would have featured highly on those hilarious late 2000s YouTube videos titled something like ‘Top 10 breakdowns that don’t fuck around’, and featuring a gif of someone unwittingly being spin-kicked in the head,
Fly By Blight has a bit of an Every Time I Die swing in some parts, while in others it pursues a more raw brutality, and once again the breakdown is just superb. Left To The Drift opens with the kind of riff I wish Code Orange hadn’t stopped writing, while in the verses it has an energy more akin to Knocked Loose. The vocals reach the kind of strained, retching tones that Greg Puciato does so well, and there’s a cracking solo of reverberating aural chaos.
short, sweet, brutal, chaotic and sincere…
There’s a slight breather at the beginning of Lesser Gods And The Science Of Superstition as the band build the tension with rumbling bass and drums, but as they let rip it feels utterly deranged. The riffs and beats are definable, but they churn together into an inescapable vortex, and every time you try to swim away there’s a throat-shredding vocal to kick you back in.
Terrestrial Anxiety opens with some disturbing sound effects before hitting you with a Nails style pummelling that continues on relentlessly, even when the tempo slows and we get some more traditional metallic hardcore rhythms. I don’t think I can say it enough, but once again Blue Ox prove to be phenomenal at breakdowns in this track. It’s a hardcore song-writing skill that has been diluted a little in recent years, particularly as it’s not just about the quality of the breakdown itself, but also of what surrounds it.
Nostrum Bomb takes absolutely no prisoners, a slew of Converge-esque elastic riffs flow back and forth into lightning quick chugs and masterful tempo changes, before another epic Kerry King style solo. It’s a finale which ends this record the way it rightly should; short, sweet, brutal, chaotic and sincere.
For the most part, hardcore has never been about originality in the technical, musical innovation sense. It’s a genre which, at its heart, is all about personality and passion, and this generally leads to an organic evolution and a natural, rather than a forced, musical diversity. Blue Ox are undoubtedly part of that evolution. Their songs have elemental components that can be traced back to other bands, but the exuberance and uniquely personal rage that they put into their sound comes seeping out of their pores in every note.
Holy Vore is a brilliant and wonderfully balanced record that serves as a strong reminder of why this combination of metal and hardcore works so damn well!
Scribed by: Will J