Album: Split EP
When it comes to underground music—hardcore especially—split EPs have been a staple for years. They’re excellent tools for bands to use to fill any one of several goals: whether it’s to release a small collective of material not lengthy or substantial enough to qualify as a standalone EP, an opportunity to work with bands they might not otherwise associate with or just the chance to make music with friends, splits are great gateway for fans of any given band to expand their musical horizons and learn about new artists while adding tunes to the catalogs of their favorite musicians. The split between Kentucky heavy hardcore heathens Knocked Loose and Damaged Goods is a wonderful example of all the benefits a split release has to offer. Enjoying the spotlight cast upon them by months of relentless touring and the release of their critically acclaimed EP Pop Culture, Knocked Loose have partnered up with a smaller—but equally vicious—Louisville act, Damaged Goods to provide a punishing collection of crushing, quick and pissed hardcore anthems for fans of all things hectic and heavy to wrap their ears around.
If you’ve been keeping track of notable hardcore releases over the past year, you’ve no doubt heard of Pop Culture, the breakout EP by heavy music’s rising stars, Knocked Loose. Combining traditional hardcore’s speed, punch and social disgust with raunchy, over-the-top breakdowns and snappy, fill-heavy percussion, Knocked Loose are back with three rounds of bare-knuckle aggression infinitely more violent than Mayweather and Paquiao’s recent fight. Featuring their recent single, “D.T.A.H.,” Knocked Loose give the listener exactly what they want: bitter, visceral energy. The album’s opening number, “Damned Earth” begins with. Trudging, dissonant riff and bass-heavy, churning percussion, building up into a towering Goliath of scattered sound before vocalist Bryan Garrislets loose with his signature “OOH,” sending it toppling down upon the listener. Knocked Loose’s contribution to the split EP serves as an excellent continuation of the writhing, relentless hardcore that made their previous release so memorable and unique. Garris’ catchy, intelligible vocal hooks and shrill screams soar overtop of the band’s earthy, gritty instrumentation, culminating in low-down-and-dirty heaviness that would send monks into a noshing frenzy. Where “D.T.A.H” is the most similar to their previous releases, and arguably the most straightforward display of devilish destruction, “Burnt Toast” and “Damned Earth” sees the quartet exploring a broader range of their influences, incorporating atmosphere and arid, dry anger into their awesome arsenal of aggressive heavy hardcore. Knocked Loose’s willingness to diversify and adapt while maintaining their commitment of crushing brutality to the listener makes this trio of songs not just memorable, but magnificent in their own right.
While this quintet might not have the infamy that Knocked Loose have garnered in the past year, they are still a veritable force to be reckoned with. Deviating from Knocked Loose’s scattered assault of shrill vocals and all-over-the-charts aggression, Damaged Goods begin their side of the split with a carefully constructed groove that quickly decays into an assault that sounds like the bastard child between Backtrack and Weekend Nachos. “Purpose of All” bounces back and forth between skin-peeling blast beats laced with frantic, hyperdissonant fretwork and low, slow churning breakdowns with uncanny speed and ease, keeping the listener constantly wondering what will be battering their ears next. “American Skin” follows suit, with grating, harsh growls and fierce mid-range shouts tying together segments of melodic, careful musicianship and lacerating quickness. While no portion of Damaged Goods’ side of the split is as memorable as some of the moments found within Knocked Loose’s “D.T.A.H.” or “Burnt Toast,” the climactic breakdown of “American Skin,” or the towering roar of “I won’t be okay” on “Thief” will have the listener’s skull buckling beneath Damaged Goods’ raw, ruthless hardcore onslaught.
The split release between Knocked Loose and Damaged Goods is an excellent example of why splits are such an excellent tool to bridge releases in a band’s discography and like-minded bands in the hardcore community. Even with the incredible content density on Knocked Loose’s side, these three songs released alone would leave fans wanting more—a more that Kentucky’s best kept secret, Damaged Goods are happy to provide. The subtle stylistic differences between the two bands keeps monotony to a minimum while still casting a bright light on both bands’ respective strengths. When it comes to bold, battering hardcore aggression, this duo will knock at the listener’s skull until they are truly nothing more than damaged goods.
For Fans Of: Kingmaker, Turnstile, Xerxes, Backtrack, Fire & Ice
By: Connor Welsh