Artist: Honest Crooks
Album: Hellsworth – EP
We live in a world where nothing is quite as it seems–every person wears a mask and emirates an illusion. Greed, mistrust and apathy fuel a fire that has spread over every inch of the globe, scorching everything it touches and leaving it coated with an ashen glaze of falsehood. In a similar fashion, things aren’t exactly as they seem with Honest Crooks. With a name that conjures a conception of a tongue-in-cheek hipster folk-pop outfit, these Australian annihilators are actually one of the most straightforward and sinister Beatdown-turned-hardcore acts to spring up from down-under. The crushing quartet’s debut EP, Hellsworth, is a refreshingly sincere and honest release in a genre overwhelmed with overproduction and glitz. Pummeling the listener with bodacious breakdowns, knee-breaking two-steps and sinfully heavy slams, Honest Crooks assault the listener and leave them without sense or sanity.
Honest Crooks waste no time with tedious technicality or overbearing song structure. Rather, Hellsworth is a picture-perfect lesson in traditional hardcore aggression. Percussionist Jesse Green leads the charge, battering the listener with a combination of brilliant, dancy kick drum patterns and splashy cymbals one minute, only to toggle to deep, looming tom fills and brutalizing breakdowns the next. Together with bassist Lewy Glass, Green provides a steady, energetic candor that moves Hellsworth along like a freight train, pushing through any obstacle. Whether it’s the dark atmosphere of “Grave Digger” or the frenzies attack in “Reaper’s Grip,” Glass and Green are a force to be reckoned with. Just as Glass and Green may be the engine propelling Honest Crooks’ locomotive of lurid heaviness, guitarist Calum Johnstone is the cast-iron and stainless steel battering ram at the end of it. Johnstone effortless glides from jamming, jarring grooves on “Venom,” to smashing, soul-smothering chug-heavy breakdowns throughout “Reaper’s Grip,” and “Grave Digger,” while hitting every zone in between. Together, there is no obstacle this terrifying trio cannot busy through.
As Honest Crooks roar through the listener’s head like a bat out of Hell, they are lead by their figurative conductor–vocalist Barry Morgan. At Morgan’s behest, Hellsworth weaves from heavy, hellacious intensity to lightning-like fury without warning or remorse. Constantly barking a gruff, mid-range scream-turned-shout, Morgan’s vocals are simple and straightforward: pissed off and pure. At no point during the poetic intensity “Take Me Home” or the skillful shouts in “Reaper’s Grip” does the listener feel like there is anything artificial about Morgan’s malicious barks and brays. Morgan provides a relatively constant source of time-tested hardcore vocal styling that might leave the listener wanting in terms of diversity (with the exception of one brilliant guest vocal appearance), but fills the void in intensity and catchiness that many Beatdown bands woefully lack.
With Morgan’s vocals at the helm, guiding Honest Crooks through the tough and turbulent waters of today’s heavy music scene, Hellsworth is a wondrous display of heaviness and catchiness combined that is bound to catch the listener completely off guard. Within the twisting, two-steppy annals of “Venom,” or the blistering misanthropy of “Reaper’s Grip,” the listener finds something Honest Crooks has that most bands don’t–an intangible source of straightforward, completely honest aggression that crushes the listener without thought or feeling. Honest Crooks’ debut EP is a lesson of sorts–that neither technicality, glitz or glamorous production are needed to get to the listener’s heart. Rather, ill-intended anger and sledgehammer heaviness is all it takes to crush through their ribcage and rob them of their life, leaving them broke and broken–but loving every minute of it.
For Fans Of: Impaler, RRA, Tomb of Doom, Failure, Madball, Expire
By: Connor Welsh