I decided to give this three-way split a listen based on a lot of internet promotion of the album. It seems like every blog had this one up. I had heard of Plebeian Grandstand before but the other two were new to me. I was intrigued by the idea of the release, three different expressions of hardcore, each tied together by the common thread of intensity and passion.
Upon first listen, Bone Dance can easily be placed somewhere in the realm of Gaza or Botch. Their two songs on this record, “Conniver” and “West” play like amazingly heavy counterparts to each other. The first, is a rager of odd riffs, dissonance, and barrel-chested roaring vocals. Imagine Torch Runner with more complex guitar work. At nearly four minutes it finally winds down, but not with out a fight, as the song lurches to finality. “West” immediately called to mind the sludge inspired hardcore mastery of Gray Ghost, as down tuned guitars churn and ring until about halfway when the tempo takes off again. This five piece from Idaho is currently on tour throughout much of the midwest and will play a few dates with Former Thieves.
Speaking of Former Thieves, the next band on the split, Divider have much in common, especially in regards to vocal tone. The music is not as complex but Divider achieve the same massive feeling with drawn out passages of driving and building guitars on “Gaia”. Divider are not to be pigeonholed into the “epic” soaring style of Hardcore, as the next track “Halios Geron” takes on the traditional hardcore short and fast framework, occasionally interrupted with crunching breaks and crescendos.
Lastly, we come to the strangest beast on this split, Plebeian Grandstand. The French quartet offer up possibly the most intense take on hardcore with their pair of tracks, “Woe Is Me” and “Woe Is You”. I don’t think it would be possible to talk about these songs without mentioning the oft lauded, French post-hardcore/screamo/black metal giants Celeste. Plebeian Grandstand achieve something very similar in their experimentation. The first of the two songs is a hard pill to swallow in terms of tone, with a non-stop wall of buzzing distortion, blasting drums, layered vocals and echoing, nearly palpable reverb. The second track just drips with Neurosis influence, littered with hypnotizing guitar work and a drudging bassline laid over tribal drumming. Plebeian Grandstand route the song through every possible dark alley, taking off into angular and grinding directions, before reining everything back in for the last build up before a long decrescendo, ringing out in a reprise of it’s trance-like introduction.