Label: Nine Eleven Conspiracy / Self-released
Bandcamp stream: link
24 Years, the latest release from French hardcore band Nine Eleven, has been a tricky album for me to completely get in to and to appreciate in more than an immediate sense. After spending a decent amount of time with it, I think I’ve worked out why. It’s not that the album is bad or lacking anything – far from it. Rather, it’s that the six tracks of modern hardcore on this album are so oppressively intense that it can be quite a task to take on board everything that is going on, and to come to an assessment other than “fuck me, that packed a punch!”
Described by the band as being a tragedy in six acts drawing inspiration from their own experiences and the structure of Goethe’s “Faust”, 24 Years is the kind of hardcore album that makes me think of how exciting the genre seemed to me in my early 20’s/late teens. The immediate comparisons that came to mind were Rise & Fall and the first two This Is Hell records in the way that these songs never sit still, but repeated listens revealed other inspirations. There’s hints of other modern hardcore heroes such as American Nightmare/Give Up The Ghost in their sound, and maybe even a little bit of the untouchable Pageninetynine in both sound and approach to the genre. The influence of Converge is also apparent, more in the way that the songs are structured and the overall feel than in any specific sound. For the most part, these songs are fast, with melodic guitar leads and octave chords shining strong over frantic drumming, powerful riffs, and desperate vocals. The punch it packs is almost comparable to a live record, albeit one with superb production (but, crucially, not over-produced).
However, it’s far from being a one-dimensional record. There’s plenty of points where the band slow things down, letting the weight of the music carry it forward. These points never last too long though, and there are frequent changes of tempo and emphasis. There’s a lot going on in these songs, and there at times when it can almost feel like too much, but that’s inherent with this style of hardcore: it’s not music to have on in the background whilst you do the housework or write an essay. It insists on drawing you in, keeping hold of you with violent, emotional intensity. The overall impression is one of drowning in a sea of negativity, which is only aided by some of the song titles (“Defying The Sea”; “Into The Storm”; “Under The Foam”).
The highlight of the album is definitely the final track, though. Whilst the preceding five tracks hammer away with all the hardcore intensity they can muster, “Never Fear A Goodbye” changes styles around the four minute mark as frantic hardcore gives way to epic post-rock. Piano, clean tremolo picking, and expansive drumming all merge with an underpinning bass, gradually building up in intensity to create something very special indeed. It’s the kind of stylistic change that loses its impact when done regularly over an album, and it’s not a genre or style I’m overly keen on over long durations, but Nine Eleven use it well here to end the album on a harrowing, moving note.
24 Years demonstrates a band comfortable and confident in their style of modern hardcore, with the self-belief to try new things. It lacks that certain spark to elevate it to the status of “excellent”, but there’s still a lot here to recommend. It’s presently available for free download via their Bandcamp page, and the vinyl and CD versions can be purchased through their Bigcartel site.