Move over Parkway Drive. Move over Miles Away. Move over….ok I ran out of Australian hardcore(ish) bands. As someone who has spent his entire life in the States, outside of one trip to India and a couple to Mexico, I don’t know a whole lot about Australia (other than the obvious: kangaroos, dingos, and the fact that almost every animal there will kill you). I especially don’t know a lot about their hardcore scene. After listening to Turn the Curse, the new album by Aussie hardcore band Relentless, I am beginning to think there is something special going on there that I am missing out on.
Relentless have seemingly become Australia’s answer to Baltimore’s Trapped Under Ice – New York style hardcore created in a scene far from New York, and done better than most modern bands actually from there. As far as comparisons go, TUI is the first and strongest one that comes to mind, but that really isn’t saying much. They are a very typical band in a scene that is full to the brim with typicalness. I love hardcore, but one of its faults is that unless you get experimental with it (Snapcase, Botch, Converge), it can quickly become redundant. This is evidenced by hundreds (probably thousands) of hardcore bands that sound exactly like Sick of It All. The upshot here is that in order for a band to break free from the pack, they either have to toy with the constraints of the genre, or they just have to be unbelievably good at the standard stuff to get your attention. Relentless falls into the latter category. I can’t really put my finger on what exactly makes a good hardcore song. You can have all the elements – gang vocals, breakdowns, and the like – and still come up with a lack lustre product. What makes Turn the Curse so special, is that it gives you all those elements without coming off as stale or ordinary. I don’t know what that special something is that makes or breaks a hardcore band these days, but Relentless certainly have it.
Turn the Curse kicks off with a straightforward hardcore jam in ‘With A Voice.’ It does a good job of getting the album rolling, but it doesn’t really hint at how good the rest of the album will be. The riffs are standard, and other than the breakdown at the end of the song, it’s pretty pedestrian. ‘Don’t Wait for Death’ gets us a little more in the mood with a more aggressive riff that will assuredly result in some head bobbing, but Turn the Curse doesn’t truly arrive until the third track, ‘World I Despise.’ This beast opens with an aggression that seems as though it has been bottled up for way too long, festering and percolating until there was no other option but to explode. Relentless does a fantastic job of creating an atmosphere that completely matches the lyrics being screamed by Trent Baldock. Without too much flash, the band creates a dynamic backdrop that helps the lyrics achieve the desired effect of pure rage. To be sure, there is nothing fancy going on here: no impressive finger tapping; little to no guitar noodling. What we have here is pure riffage at its best, driving a song and moving it in a way best described as purposeful. With this track, Turn the Curse doesn’t just arrive, it kicks the fucking door down.
‘All We Know’ follows up ‘World I Despise’ perfectly, with an intro comprised of Baldock screaming over a guitar riff sans bass and drums. When the full band eventually enters, it’s with an excellent gang scream of “IT’S ALL WE KNOW!” And right there it becomes obvious why this album is so good. What makes this album (and ‘All We Know’ in particular) so memorable, is that while it is a traditional hardcore album, it moves around and keeps the listener guessing with what will be coming next. There is nothing predictable about the breakdowns and the band often wanders into some interesting bridges that give the songs life and identity while staying true to the standard hardcore sound.
The track that most begs to be heard would have to be ‘Rise,’ which I can only imagine is a crowd favorite. Of course, I’m a sucker for bass “solos,” but the intro absolutely kills it with a simple bass riff played over a simple drum beat, while Trent Baldock screams, “We are the underground that roam the streets at night. We are disregarded, the ones you’ve cast aside. We are the renegades fighting for a lost cause. Rebellious youth just trying to find a place in this world!” And just like that, there is a sixteen year-old version of myself inside my head, kicking holes in my frontal lobe and ready to join the Relentless cause. The first half of ‘Rise’ is filled with bouncy riffs and gang vocals that make you want to be on the front-line, screaming into the mic lent out by Baldock. The second chorus goes on to transition into a punky drum beat with a sweet little guitar solo that eventually gives way to some brilliantly bouncy riffs. Those bouncy rhythms eventually slow to half-time as the song comes to an end. It is everything good about hardcore delivered to perfection.
Turn the Curse closes out with four great tracks in ‘Undefeated,’ ‘Wasting Away,’ ‘Justice for None,’ and the title track, ‘Turn the Curse.’ All four are songs worthy of repeated listens, but none more than ‘Turn the Curse.’ Showing how an album should be closed, ‘Turn the Curse’ is heavy on the gang vocals and intensity. There is something so…I don’t know…”badass” about the outro to the song, a simple chugga chugga riff played under gang vocals screaming, “Turn!….the curse!” It most definitely brings to mind the outro to ‘Ali vs Frazer’ by Bane, and that, my friends, is the highest of compliments.
You have likely noticed the repeated use of words like simple and standard throughout this review, but don’t let this confuse you. It’s this simplicity and faithfulness to the essence of hardcore that makes this album so powerful. The scene is full of bands that clearly listen to and emulate the great hardcore bands, but Relentless simply is a great hardcore band. Of course we all love ourselves some Refused, Cave In, and Dillenger Escape Plan, but sometimes hardcore needs to be hardcore, and just hardcore. In those times, I find myself searching for records like Turn the Curse that bring on the intensity but don’t settle for cheap breakdowns and tired riffs at every turn. Turn the Curse is extremely vibrant and full of rage; which is exactly what you should ask of a hardcore album. In fact, the band sum it up pretty well themselves: the band’s bio for this album states,”Turn the Curse is one of those rare full lengths that begs the listener to hit play again the second it ends.” I did just that on more than a few occasions, and I bet you will too.
Grade: Turn the Curse is a can’t miss album for anyone that is a fan of hardcore.
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