Hey there, Bucket Fans, and welcome to another installment of Bipolar Reviews, where today myself (Ted Berger) and Chris Aitkens are brought together again to try to recover from our last, similarly scored, and equally hated review. This time on the docket, we have …As One, the latest release by Minnesota hardcore act ROT. Will Chris and I have the same opinion again? Will we tear apart each other’s thoughts on the album? Will Ted magically come up with a third rhetorical question? LET’S FIND OUT!
My first impression on …As One was that it was generic, formulaic, tough-guy hardcore – and I mean that in the most loving way possible. Sometimes you like things to be simple and uncomplicated: a grilled cheese sandwich, a bowl of mac n’ cheese, missionary position, whatever. That simplicity provides comfort in knowing what you’re about to get. Rot plays in that space by giving straight-ahead, no-frills, pissed off chugga-chugga hardcore with no need to genre-meld by introducing aspects of thrash or shoegaze or whatever the latest spice of the month may be. That lack of musical diversity may cause them to be overlooked or lost amongst other similar bands like Defeater, Kublai Khan, or Jesus Piece, but they’ve tapped into a tried and true formula and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And they do touch on points to remain memorable like when they deviate from the formula a touch with a more “dreamy”, Deftones-esque intro to “Empty Hope” and by the rather disturbing 911 samples in “Spirit”. Having those moments in a wanted formulaic hardcore record is enough to make it stand out and worth listening to, in this reviewer’s opinion.
I was actually excited when Ted described this band to me as “tough-guy hardcore.” I wanted something simple and predictable. I had a very specific sound in mind. Listening to the opening sample of the first track, “Overdrive,” of a man describing his thoughts as he puts a gun to his head and awaits some kind of divine intervention, I realized this record would be a lot darker and more nihilistic than I expected. The first bunch of songs are unapologetically political. They’re a call to see the violence inherent in the system. And as the album cover showing a flaming car in front of a mob suggests, the only proper reaction to that system is with violence. The sample in “Ask” sent chills down my spine. The audio is taken from a congressional hearing, in which some government ghoul is questioned about his support of a US-backed massacre in El Salvador. Frontman Arrold Walton cuts in, telling the listener to “Speak. Ask. Think. React.”
The sixth track is where they begin to lose me. Rot falls into the hardcore trope of obsessing over betrayal, whether it’s from a former romantic partner (“Beretta”), a close friend (“Empty Hope”), or a parental figure (“Spirit”). They briefly won me back on “Technicolor Yawn” with guest vocalist Don Gordon of Fargo hardcore outfit Swing Low uttering the line “I’ll cross that blue line / With my shiny nine millimeter.”
Musically, the band is tight throughout, though you can always hear that hardcore breakdown coming a mile away. As Ted mentioned, the dreamy sound of “Empty Hope” offers some variety. Lyrically, I wish Rot had stayed the course and concentrated their attack on systemic issues. Instead, I was disappointed when they decided to give a series of condensed one-sided tirades about a broken-off relationship, and for that reason– as the last lines of the album put it– “you will get no sympathy from me.”
Written by Ted Berger & Chris Aitkens
*Edited by Dominic Abate