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G&B_albumart_GA[19th March 2013]
[Melotov Records]

01. The Weight
02. Stays the Same
03. Hand of Glory
04. Body’s Sore
05. Actuality of Chaos
06. Days on Replay
07. Woven Deep Within
08. A River’s Mouth
09. Directions
10. Systems
11. Coexist
12. Creatures of Habit
13. Grandfather’s Axe

It is typically only with the vaunted clarity of hindsight that the boundaries of any genre’s so-called “golden age” become well-defined; when the distance of decades allows for the kind of sober reflection required to plot the full arc of a given artistic movement. Ongoing art forms can be frustratingly resistant to cogent analysis; without a greater framework of historical context, the critic’s task of accurately describing a movement may be as difficult to realize as the drowning man’s hope of finding the surface.

It is with these objections in mind that I offer my hypothesis: we are in the upswing of the dark hardcore movement and are hearing some of the fusion genre’s future classics. However, today’s question is not whether I am right about dark hardcore in general (I am), but whether Grandfather’s Axe, the new long-player by San Diego’s Globe & Beast, is one of those aforementioned future classics.

Dark hardcore is a relatively new microgeneric designation that refers, in general, to modern hardcore punk fused with some of the “dark” elements of various subgenres of metal. Globe & Beast’s style is deliciously sludgy, pouring anguish and angst over the listener like so much honey glaze over a spiral-cut ham. This band is angry and it shows: Grandfather’s Axe opens with the simple but effective drum-line of “The Weight”, a seething two-minute introduction with only two repeated lines of lyrics, “Distract them with death and violence. / Alter consumption, reshape compliance”. It’s an ominous preamble that sets the tone for the rest of the record  pent-up and pissed-off.

Grandfather’s Axe is an exercise in building intensity. This record is filled with more repressed frustration than a virgin on prom night; each track quivering with the tension of a taut bowstring on the verge of release. Confused imagery aside, there is a potency to Globe & Beast’s music that threatens to overwhelm the listener at any time. If Grandfather’s Axe seems harsh at its start, then it’s downright malicious in its middle: the halfway point sees the band hitting its stride and showcases some of the records most crushing tunes. Here, the level of attention paid to pacing becomes clear, offering a refreshing reminder that there are still bands out there that know how to plot a captivating album arc. By the time the eponymous album closer plays and frontman Blake Backer screams “If it’s not worth fixing, then it’s not worth fucking saving / Just like my grandfather’s axe”, Globe & Beast have squeezed a Guillermo del Toro flick’s worth of suspense out of their instruments.

At times, Grandfather’s Axe seems like it should hit harder than it does. It feels odd to accuse a hardcore band of exercising excessive restraint — a bit like criticizing a schoolchild for being overly well-behaved  but unbridled aggression is one of hardcore’s most appealing elements. There are moments when Globe & Beast seem prepared to beat the listener about the head like a truncheon-wielding gendarme, only to pull back and opt instead for something safer and less bludgeoning. To be fair, this is a mild gripe  Grandfather’s Axe is without a doubt a heavy record and, as the above praise should indicate, Globe & Beast are a talented band. However, an additional soupçon of reckless abandon could have created the kind of mosh-pit catharsis that can shepherd a hardcore album across that intangible boundary between great and legendary.

All it takes is a cursory listen to the band’s 2011 EP Tides to know that Globe & Beast are on a steep upward trajectory in terms of musicianship; versions of the song “Systems” appear on both releases, making it a case-study for the band’s maturation. Quibbles aside, this is a damn good record that makes for damn good listening, and while Grandfather’s Axe might not quite reach the level of a genre classic, Globe & Beast might yet prove to be a genre favourite.


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