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
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.