I don’t claim to be an expert on hardcore by any stretch; to me it tends to fall into two camps – the powerfully uplifting and anthemic or the kind that kicks your face off and leaves you punch drunk with its intensity.
Pittsburgh’s own Heartless fall very much into the second camp with their Southern Lord debut ‘Hell Is Other People’. Taken from the famous quote by French miserablist Jean Paul Satre on the dichotomy of having to have our existence verified by others (but in turn are limited by them and therefore unable to fulfil our potential) this full length album comes on the back of multiple seven inch releases through a variety of D.I.Y labels.
Those of you familiar with Heartless should know what to expect. For the uninitiated this is a visceral blast of hardcore vitriol that goes for the jugular and fails to let up until you are a wrecked twitching mess some 13 short and spiky tracks later.
This is old school, like waaay back in the day when Napalm Death produced songs so brutal and so short it made you wonder if you had forgotten to take your Ritalin that morning. With most of the tracks clocking in around the one minute mark this is a brutal, suffocating head rush of a listen that manages to cram so much anger and emotion into these, blink and you’ll miss them, work outs that you’d be forgiven for thinking that when they recorded this album, they had the sword of Damocles hanging above them. Make no mistake ‘Hell Is Other People’ is not for the faint hearted (it is indeed for the Heartless… I’ll get my coat…).
‘Clean Slate’ is a crusty blast of powerviolence that lasts all of 51 seconds, two thirds of the way into the song, it breaks down into the kind of catchy riff that Hatebreed made their own for years. Just as you think you’re getting into it, you’re plunged, headlong, into the second track ‘Resuscitate/Suffocate’ which stomps all over the previous memory with it’s snotty, grind laced attitude. This breakneck approach defines the albums opening four minutes before ‘Undulations’ proves they are not a one trick pony by slithering in with a fairly slow start for the first third of it’s epic 1.33 minutes running time and ‘Deject’ conjures the slower grind of Earth Crisis, Snapcase or even Vision Of Disorder in their heyday.
Heartless are utterly captivating despite the break neck pace of the album as a whole and they are totally relentless – it is the sonic equivalent of running until your lungs burst for most of the album. The final quarter of the album shows that the band are capable of getting all dark and brooding by switching up their aural assault as ‘Hell…’ draws to a close with a series of tracks that break the two minute mark proving that they can do atmospherics in a microcosm to augment their frenetic thrash.
It’s not pretty, it’s probably not for everyone, but then as the man said, hell is other people…
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden