Album: Black Smoke – EP
Where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be fire—you know the adage. The blacker the smoke, the more devastation wreaked; the more carnage there is left in it’s wake. The air is thick with dark, acrid smoke and putrid, intense fumes as the listener’s eyes begin to water and their chest heaves with deep, whooping coughs. Despite their best efforts, Black Smoke fills their lungs, and TwelvexTitans take over their mind. These Albuquerque straight edge aggressors flood the listener with violent, insidious anger denser than any fog and darker than a midnight sky. Equal parts punchy, jaw-breaking hardcore and razor sharp metallic fury, Black Smoke is a complex, brutalizing release that is catchy enough to engulf the listener’s mind and lethal enough to leave nothing left once it’s done.
Black Smoke is split cleanly down the middle, straddling the line between murky, heavy metallic elements and dissonant, dome-splitting hardcore. From the first pummeling kick drum hits and huge, hyperdissonant chords of “Ashes,” the listener knows exactly what they’re in for: nearly twenty minutes of whiplash-inducing, skin-shredding intensity. Percussionist Shane Mulligan sets the speed to TwelvexTitans’ torrential onslaught; “Trash” sees him kicking it off with jarring blast beats and quick footwork, only to kick the chair out from underneath the listener and snap their neck with brash, bold breakdowns and splashy, sanity-shredding cymbals. Mulligan works side by side with bassist Griffin Offerdahl to provide a hard-hitting, mostly-metallic assault on the listener. A great majority of the metallic elements behind the whirlwinds “Trash” and “Against the Cold” are due to Offerdahl’s on-point bass work and Mulligan’s manic percussion. This isn’t to say the two don’t have their penchant for punishing, bare-knuckle beatdown; these moments are best exemplified in the EP’s title track, as well as the off-the-wall “Early Grave,” where the duo work in edenic harmony with guitarist Cameron McBride. Milligan might dictate the candor with which TwelvexTitans crush the listener, but McBride has the last word in the band’s styling. “Early Grave” and “Lifesucker” hit like heavy hardcore anthems, with boatloads of dissonance and more than their fair share of bone-bending, basic breakdowns. However, McBride lets loose with metallic, riff-friendly segments of furious fretwork on the metallic “Trash” and “Against the Cold” that see the entire band truly embracing their metalcore moniker.
Where TwelvexTitans’ instrumentation oscillated between metal and harsh hardcore, their vocals follow suit—making the best out an extraordinary dual-vocalist dynamic and a cornucopia of crushing guest vocalists. Frontmen Caleb Mason and Kody Hamilton lead the charge with both sinisterly spat traditional hardcore shouts and gruff, bitter metallic screams. “Lifesucker,” for example, sees the duo working in dialectic, nearly conversational harmony. However, “Trash” sees them overlapping ever so slightly, immersing the listener to a point where they become unsure if they are hearing one vocalist or two. As if Mason and Hamilton don’t provide enough variety already, Black Smoke is home to four guest vocalists, each of them making a hefty mark on the EP. Whether it’s Drowning’s Bryan Grantz or JL Luzietti and Angel Valdez’s double barreled shotgun approach. There is no lack of vocal variety to Black Smoke—even if the appearance on “Early Grave” feels ever-so-slightly out of place.
Not since Liferuiner’s No Saints has there been such an impressive display of straight edge metal-turned-hardcore prowess. “Against the Cold” is catchier than the clap, and “Trash” has brazen, brilliant one-liners for days. Even Garris’ closing chorus on “Black Smoke” is bound to get caught in the listener’s head, and “Crux” kicks off with a brilliant sample and closes with gripping, gruesome darkness that does the EP’s name proud. Where TwevexTitans might not earn points for an original instrumental idea, they do earn points for fun, slightly-campy but insanely catchy lyrics that will have even drug-addled listener’s singing along. And just when you think you have TwelvexTitans figured out, they throw in surprise raunchiness and crush where you least expect it—because if the finale to “Crux” isn’t grime, I don’t know what is.
Even if you aren’t a straight edge mosh warrior or fit any other hardcore stereotypes from those mid-2000’s infopics, do yourself a favor and lose yourself in TwevexTitans’ Black Smoke. Raunchy, relentless and heavy, this brief but blistering EP is bound to find a permanent home on any listener’s gym playlist.
For Fans Of: Liferuiner, Drowning, The World We Knew, xTyrantx, GhostxShip
By: Connor Welsh