As long as there has been a developed society, there have been those who devote themselves to its destruction. No matter what steps are being taken to attempt to make the world a better place, sociopaths and serial criminals gather their only source of solace from smearing the society they lurk in. Somewhere in the Midwestern plains between Cleveland and Ft. Wayne, there exists such a Menace to society–manifesting in the form of the crushing quintet, Affairs. This misanthropic metalcore act gather influences from dissonant, slow down-tempo and thrashy, quick metal alike, throwing in hints and splashes of serene melody and catchy clean vocals to provide a unique style of sinister aggression that stands alone amid a flock of faceless, sound-a-like heavy bands emerging from the flourishing North American scene.
Affairs possess a quirky breed of crushingly aggressive music that is home to several nuances and subtle accents that come together to allow Menace to be a truly standalone release. Every instrumentalist is a wolf in sheep’s wool—their percussionist, Chad Lee for instance. Beginning Menace with a relatively straightforward groove on “Brainwashed,” the listener’s first exposure to Lee’s percussive prowess isn’t necessarily flooring. However, by the time his meaty kick drum quits pounding at the listener’s head throughout the opening onslaught of “Brainwashed,” the listener is treated to a great variety of Lee’s diverse drumming—whether it’s the speedy fills that dot “Overseer,” or the serene, jazzy drumming that flows into the listener’s head like a stream on “Tall Tales.” However, Lee’s aggressive percussion is only as relentless and ravaging as Teague Robinson’s bass grooves will allow. Lee’s beefy kick drum is amplified tenfold by the cavernous roar of Robinson’s bass grooves; especially during the climax to “Brainwashed” and the bouncy introduction to “Delusional.” Together, Lee and Robinson give a solid foundation to guitarists Austin Wittkamper and Eliott Barraza to roam across, constructing crushing grooves, rampaging riffs and bone-splintering breakdowns. “Brainwashed” and “Swallowing Teeth” are especially excellent examples of this, as the duo drop from shred day mayhem to monstrous heaviness at the bat of an eyelash. However, “Delusional,” and the ambient “Tall Tales” see the duo stepping outside of their overtly metallic comfort zone to provide ethereal, albeit frantic harmonies that allow crooned clean singing to slide into the listener’s skull effortlessly. Wittkamper and Barraza are outstandingly talented guitarists who wear their diverse influences on their sleeves, working tirelessly to carefully mesh aggression and intelligence, giving Menace its sharpest teeth and insatiable appetite.
Where Affairs’ instrumental arrangement is home to subtlety and sneaky songwriting both, their vocal assault knows nothing of tact or nuance. Kenny Dazley provides an unstoppable assault with a bitter, belligerent yell that scrapes away at the listener’s ear like sandpaper on a jackhammer. Dazley favors an intense, gruff shout, dwelling well within a range of middle-and-almost-low screams. However, on tracks like the over-aggro “Stigmata,” Dazley doesn’t hesitate to break out a blistering, immense growl–contrasted by an eerie, hit-or-miss cleanly sung chorus from a previous track. “Delusional,” as well as several choruses appearing throughout Menace are examples of a truly stand-out aspect to Affairs’ sound that is also their most polarizing factor. Their clean vocals are either immensely effective or end up falling flat on their face. “Loose Ends” is an excellent example of the former, flowing well with the song’s metallic and bouncy nature. “Delusional” is another story. While the vocals are far from cringeworthy (as one might expect from a heavy band), they don’t seem to flow very well, and stick out like a sore thumb; not in the stylistically anti-complimentary fashion, but in the “wait, what?” fashion. However, despite the solitary hiccup, Dazley gives Menace a vocal performance to be proud of, showcasing power, stamina and diversity–and standing his own among some of the genre’s biggest names.
Packed with dynamic instrumentation, brutalizing heaviness and a relentless vocal facet bolstered by the appearance of several genre heavyweights, Menace is a true threat to Affairs’ peers. Living up to it’s name, the band’s latest LP is a bloodthirsty monster, using Dazley’s immense endurance and powerful voice to hit home an array of aggressive and bitter lyrics that let listeners of every background relate. However, while those factors make Menace strong, the subtle catchiness of grooves like those found in “Delusional” and “Swallowing Teeth,” along with the hyperbaric pressure induced by “Stigmata” and it’s unbelievable heaviness make it a true winner. Menace is the product of a band fully exploring their influences and carefully composing each song to create a dense but dynamic release that will earn the hardworking quintet prodigal notoriety in a crowded scene.
Make no mistake—just because you haven’t heard of Affairs doesn’t mean they aren’t out for blood. Menace is a carnivorous, crushing album that is aggressive from start to finish and spiked with surprises that will keep the listener guessing.
For Fans Of: For the Fallen Dreams, A Life Once Lost, In Hearts Wake, Like Moths to Flames
By: Connor Welsh