The other week, I overheard someone say that they like their hardcore “dumb.” I thought a lot about what this could mean and what bands qualify as ‘dumb?’ I realized it’s not exactly an insult, that person just liked to listen hardcore that’s simple and heavy, whereas I like to listen to hardcore that’s innovative and, at times, weird. So I came up with a Hardcore Intelligence Scale (HCIS); 1 being ‘Caveman’ (familiar, yet generic) and 10 being ‘College’ (creative, yet off-putting). To test this scale, I headed to Club Soda on a Monday night to rate each band, and take a beating in the process.
Montreal’s own Prowl opened the show as the room began to fill up. Right from the beginning, people were being cautious of going anywhere near the pit as the hardcore karate kids were already showing off the dance of their people. I should have exercised that same caution, because, within the first song, I caught a spinning back kick to the stomach. Vocalist Maxime Vallières stomped around stage, holding the mic stand above his head like a warrior about to charge into the fray, while the rest of the band stayed stagnant.
HCIS rating: 3; Prowl slightly cross over into war metal with reverbed vocals and thrashy riffs but maintain a rhythm that’s easy to step to.
Changing the pace was SeeYouSpaceCowboy from California. Connie Sgarbossa hid her face with a hooded raincoat and her long hair, but that shyness melted away within the first two hits of the hi-hat as she screamed and spin-kicked.
HCIS rating: 6; SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s early avant-garde material might have ranked as high as 10, but with the release of their newest album The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds, the band ditches experimental silliness in favour of raw emotion, picking the softness and aggression of what we would have called “screamo” a decade ago. Sgarbossa changes between gut-wrenching screams to sullen spoken word, as if giving a eulogy; their song “Late December” is a prime example of this. SeeYouSpaceCowboy is the sonic embodiment of the five stages of grief.
You know how I mentioned above that I like weird hardcore? Well, Candy is my new favourite band. Vocalist Zak Quiram brought the energy, but I was concentrating more on Andrew Stark performing the triple duty of playing bass, providing backup vocals and fiddling with noise pedals, yet still ran around the stage during the fast instrumental parts.
HCIS rating: 7; Candy mix their hardcore with blast-beats, industrial noise and HM-2 crunch without losing their aggressive momentum. Their music is abrasive and unpredictable.I look forward to hearing their Relapse Records debut.
It became increasingly clear that Stick To Your Guns has a large following in Montreal. People in the front were climbing on top of each other for their chance to sing the next line. Jesse Barnett would give a preview to the upcoming song by reciting a few words from the chorus, to which the audience would cheer enthusiastically, followed by the band launching into the next song. Fans were so eager to show that they need every line by heart, that by the closing song, about a dozen jumped on stage and grabbed the mic out of Barnett’s hands.
HCIS rating: 1; STYG is quintessential hardcore. They have all the ingredients: gang vocals, melodic shout-along choruses, positive life-affirming lyrics, breakdowns with two-step rhythms. It’s for those who live and breathe hardcore. As Barnett shouted during a rousing speech: “It’s not a phase, Mom!”
Having missed them at this year’s Heavy Montreal, I was looking forward to seeing if Knocked Loose is worth the hype. I threw caution to the wind and wandered into the eye of storm where I was administered several punches to the back of the head and was knocked to the floor by heavyset stage divers. To really drive home their newest album A Different Shade of Blue, extra lights were brought on stage to blind the audience with blue.
HCIS rating: 2; Listening to Knocked Loose is like listening to a never-ending breakdown. Even listening to them alone at home, I feel in danger of being hit by a crowd killer. The combination of frontman Bryan Garris’ high yells and guitarist Isaac Hale’s low growls makes for an especially threatening sound. The band gets an extra point for creativity for their use of samples, but they keep it simple and heavy as they lead the charge of modern hardcore.
Written by Chris Aitkens
Photography by Mihaela Petrescu
*edited by Danielle Kenedy