Album: Hell At Last
When one looks at The United States of America and the current state of affairs that concerns the nation’s overall sociopolitical climate, a lot of things come to mind all at once. The alarming disparity in wages, wealth and rights among races, ethnicities and genders. The uneven and irresponsible distribution of power. Thinly veiled (and often, these days, totally unveiled) hatred for one another, for the country’s governing body, for ourselves—it all runs rampant. But it didn’t just get this way. We didn’t just wake up one morning, and poof, as if by some perverse, Groundhog Day style magic, things went to shit. No, we, as a nation worked for this—we slaved over it, crafted it with each unjust and unkind turn unto one another. It’s our Hell and ours alone—and it’s the very same Hell brought to life by Texan technical titans Insvrgence. Sounding something akin to a more mosh-friendly The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, or maybe a little more straightforward take on Ion Dissonance’s manic mathcore stylings, Hell at Last is the Stay Sick Recordings debut record from this Austin-based onslaught, and it doesn’t let up for a second. Packing metric tons of chaos and crushing aggression into a short-but-sweet package, Hell At Last is a masterful display of tasteful, digestible conventional mathcore done excellently, with very little frills or superfluous touches to distract from Insvrgence’s pure rage.
Insvrgence’s Hell at Last showcases the band arriving at a refined blend of chaotic mathcore and hard-hitting metalcore that their entire discography has been working towards. Where Every Living Creature Dies Alone was heavy on the chaos, Hell at Last sees the quartet emphasizing a more straightforward—but still spastic—approach to heavy music. Songs like “The Grey” or “Candle Burned at Both Ends” display this best, with percussionist Abram Urve hammering away with bold, sturdy percussion fit for a metalcore act—just written in time signatures that are a far cry from the genre’s 4/4 mainstay. “Misdiagnosis” and “Zapruder” both hearken back to the more mischievous and chaotic elements from the band’s past—here Urve is whimsical and unpredictable behind the kit, while Peter Varela and Rafe Holmes handle string duty, with Holmes’ fretwork serving as the real ear-catcher. Holmes—who went out of his way to make Every Living Creature… a maelstrom of murderous aggression and punk-tinted chaos—channels elements from 2005-2010 metalcore into his writing with this go-round, mixing them with some of the more conventional mathcore bands from the same era to create songs like “Candle Burned at Both Ends”; moshable, yet manic and unpredictable. Together, Holmes, Varela and Urve are energetic and comprehensive in their attempt to blend various styles of metal’s more extreme offshoots together. Spanning everything from jaw-dropping riffs (“The Grey,” “Strength Through Solidarity”) to jaw-busting breakdowns (“Candle Burned at Both Ends”), the trio are terrifying in the variety of styles they can achieve and the voracity with which they achieve it.
Insvrgence have owned the badge of “politically charged, pissed off hardcore” for some time now, and while the “hardcore” aspect is up for debate (on your own time and Facebook pages, however), the politically charged and pissed off portions certainly are not. Where frontman James Wendt discusses politics a little less on Hell at Last than the band has previously, it is still a prominent topic addressed over the record’s half-hour-plus runtime. Songs like “Zapruder” and “Misdiagnosed” are rife with sociopolitical discourse—as are “Strength Through Solidarity” and “Seasons of Death.” However, “Candle Burned at Both Ends,” as well as “The Grey” take that frame and use it as a means to turn introspectively and explore elements of mental health, loss and grief. This gives Insvrgence a layer of lyrical diversity they were previously lacking, expanding in the ways in which listeners from various sociopolitical and ethnic backgrounds can relate to Hell at Last. Likewise, the band’s vocal element has taken a big step up—with Wendt’s voice ranging from grisly lows to shrill highs constantly throughout the record. Wendt certainly establishes his comfort zone—a raw, gritty mid-range yell—but isn’t too afraid to stray from it; heard best on “The Grey,” or peppered throughout Hell at Last’s back half.
Hell at Last is a mature and fairly diverse record from a band who, coming off of Every Living Creature Dies Alone, needed to mature and diversify. In short, Insvrgence kept the parts of their dynamic that made them unique and cut out the frill, refining themselves and their approach to moshable mayhem, as it were. Is there still room for the band to grow? Absolutely—a little more variety, especially from Wendt, would be welcome—but comparing where the band are now compared to their debut full-length release is simply stunning. Without losing their core sound and style, Insvrgence have made easily-digestible chaotic music with a powerful political, social and emotional message which is no small feat, and certainly worthy of relishing in.
For Fans Of: Stray from the Path, Ion Dissonance, Sleepsculptor, Born a New, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza
By: Connor Welsh