When it comes to US hardcore, I’ve always been an East-Coast guy. Boston, New York and New Jersey always seemed to produce the bands that appealed to me the most – tough, sinewy, aggressive, righteously pissed-off and not averse to the odd bit of chaotic discord.
That’s right were these here Noo Joisey boys fit in – seething with barely suppressed rage and prone to lurching off-kilter angularities. Following in the footsteps of New Yorkers Burn and Die 116, close kin to fellow Jerseyites Deadguy and, to a lesser extent, Rorschach and Human Remains, Torchbearer fully understand how to let that anger ooze and seep out, rather than just blowing their wad in a full-on beatdown frenzy.
The environment around the members of the band has served as a form of crucible in which the music they make has been forged – as ugly, discomforting and unfriendly as New Jersey can be, those qualities are reflected within the sounds on The Dirty Swagger and also reflected back onto that environment in the shape of the rage and disgust so evident in vocalist Amit Sharma’s tense throaty bark. Combined with the filthy swing of the music created by guitarists Sam Patterson and Dan Brennan, bassist Will Karakowski and drummer Chris Ross, Sharma articulates his environment and how it affects him in no uncertain terms.
‘Pearls Before Swine’ lurches discordantly on a swinging, pulsing groove, Sharma spitting venomously, ‘Living Disorder’ gallops and explodes filthily like latter-era Deadguy, driven by a throbbing bassline, and ‘P.S. I’m Banging All Of Them’ is a furious angular speedball that feels like it’s over in the blink of an eye.
NY/NJ hardcore isn’t known for its prog-rock odysseys, and nothing on The Dirty Swagger can be said to outstay its welcome or pander to indulgence – the vibe is primarily stripped-down and terse with nary so much as a guitar solo to be found anywhere.
‘Security Blanket’ is like an evil Quicksand, ‘Stutter Syndrome’ is furiously syncopated and carefully orchestrated chaos with a crawling, jagged end-section, and ‘Unreliable Narrator’ explodes like a bomb, throwing out white-hot shards of guitar shrapnel that echo throughout the entire number.
‘9-32’ alternates the jarring skree with a doomy descending riff that fits right in and album closer ‘Decay’ backs off on the distortion but still manages to sound as filthy and uncomfortable as that which came before, if not more so.
An aptly named album The Dirty Swagger brims over with filth, disgust, pith and vinegar, staking out territory not mined this well in quite some time and doing it with style and verve. A solid debut from a band who will hopefully be walking the walk with a dirty swagger for a good while.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson