There’s surely no disputing that Deathwish Inc. are one of the most important labels in underground music. Since their inception in 2000, the label has had an excellent run of releases, consistent in quality and varied in style, to the point that they’re now one of the defining labels of modern hardcore. There’s more than a few game-changers and modern classics to be found among the label’s back-catalogue (which can be explored at your leisure via their excellent Bandcamp page), but there’s also some releases that, for whatever reason, never quite got the recognition or attention they deserved – or maybe they did, and they’re simply worth revisiting. Here’s my pick of five such hidden gems.
Jesuseater – Step Inside My Death Ray!
Fronted by former Dag Nasty vocalist Shawn Brown, the music of Jesuseater is a riff-heavy mix of hardcore intensity and stoner/doom weight, that’s vastly different from the youthful urgency of Shawn’s former band. Their sole album, Step Inside My Death Ray!, is the kind of record that absolutely does not mess around, packed full of great riffs and powerful vocals; but also has a sense of maturity about it. This is music for people who have been around the block a few times, and have the scars and stories to prove it.
Some Girls – All My Friends Are Going Death
Compiling Some Girls‘ previous EPs, demos, and a few new songs, All My Friends Are Going Death is a frantic half hour of post-millenial hardcore. Fueled by an almost physical urgency and anxiety – aided by Wes Eisold’s (Cold Cave, American Nightmare) wonderfully poetic lyrics – it races along, never settling in one place for long, desperate to move on as if it were afraid of commitment. Shades of bands that members were also involved with are clear at various times, but Some Girls have personality and character all of their own. Even if that personality seems hell-bent on burning out in a blaze of sex and drugs, leaving you alone in the morning and breaking all those promises to call you back.
Sex Positions – Sex Positions
It’s safe to say that Deathwish have released a lot of diverse music, but I don’t think there’s quite anything else out there that sounds like Sex Positions. Whilst their passion and intensity puts them in the hardcore camp, there’s more than a hint of new wave influence to the sound. But what really helped set their self-titled album apart was the use of electronics (and in a way that didn’t just feel like a rip-off of ‘New Noise’). Samples, manipulated vocals, pitch shifting – all this and more was combined with thrilling hardcore to produce something unique and absolutely gripping. Such fearless experimentation was all the more impressive for how cohesive a whole it produced. A few unsuccessful attempts have been made to resurrect the band since their initial demise, leaving this album standing as their flawless epitaph.
WHIPS/CHAINS – Master/Slave
The sole release from WHIPS/CHAINS is one of my favourite things Deathwish Inc have put out to date. Featuring a trio of veteran musicians – most notably, Ryan Patterson (Coliseum) – MASTER/SLAVE is a crusty, hard-hitting EP, full of driving urgency and fury. Taking influence from the likes of His Hero Is Gone and early Bolt Thrower, there’s a real sense of protest and disgust throughout the record, along with just the right amount of melody that you’d hope for from crust that draws from such classic sources. I’m forever holding out for a follow-up, as MASTER/SLAVE still holds its own over five years after release. Deathwish Inc’s website still lists them as active, so here’s hoping.
New Lows – Harvest of the Carcass
What happened to New Lows? This band should have been huge. Harvest of the Carcass is one of the heaviest things Deathwish Inc have put out, and as punishing a listen as it is, it’s also hugely exhilarating, with a swing and swagger that’s a lot of fun to listen to – not to mention being hugely cathartic. Even if the band don’t release anything further, this album – along with the Abhorrent Endings EP – provide plenty of evidence that New Lows should have been one of modern hardcore’s biggest names, because this record was one of the best to have come out in 2011, and deserves your attention even now. The breakdown in the title track is perfect.