Artist: Bitter Peace A.D.
Album: Bitter Peace A.D. – EP
Life is cruel and violent. We spend it enduring what feels like endless pain—all with the hopes that when we die and are sentenced to rest beneath the earth, we might know some kind of solace. It’s a perverse “Christmas Day” to the long and arduous time spent living on this earth—a peaceful gift for our souls, if not our bodies.
But if what we get when we die is anything like the debut EP by Michigan-based hardcore outfit Bitter Peace A.D., then bitter peace is about all our souls will know. An apt name for a rocky debut release, this Midwest quintet provide a slightly north of average performance with recording quality that—while likely intended to sound raw and gritty—is far south of palatable, taking what may have been a decent release and castigating it to a realm ever-so-slightly better than “cringeworthy,” and still not quite “tolerable.”
Bitter Peace A.D. Take a very traditional approach to hardcore—manifesting in quick, simple riffs that dance over bare-bones percussion in an attempt to buckle the listener’s back beneath a barbaric attack of ruthless aggression. On paper and in principle, this is an excellent idea—however, like many great ideas, the actual execution of the concept never goes according to plan. Where the main lick of “Retribution” and be climactic segment of “Suffer in Silence” are both instrumentally sound, the minimal production makes it sound too raw to be truly catchy. Other moments—like the climax to “Retribution” or the entirety of “Chaos Reigns” which seem meant to be aggressive and rambunctious simply sound flat. The drums lack punch—forced to the very back of a shallow mix, where the guitars are distorted and dissonant—however, rather than dissonant in a way that implies heaviness, they are dissonant in a haphazard and lack-luster fashion, such that the listener has to truly focus to find the backbone of the scattered fretwork. This isn’t always the case—as the guitar work during some of “Retribution” is just sharp enough to stand out and grab the listener’s attention—it seems to be the rule as opposed to the exception, making Bitter Peace A.D.’s instrumental backdrop difficult to ignore, much less enjoy.
Bitter Peace A.D. continue their tactic of unpolished, aggressive assault on the listener well beyond their instrumental components. While the entire point of vocals within hardcore—especially Bitter Peace A.D.’s thrash-infused, punk driven modicum of the genre—is to be abrasive, the band are (once more) hit or miss on achieving this goal. In short, the band’s frontman neither makes nor breaks Bitter Peace A.D.’s debut. His voice—while grating and raw for the EP’s entirety, he is only particularly effective at catching the listener’s ear during portions of “Retribution” or the energetic and bombastic “Chaos Reigns”–while “Suffer in Silence” sees the vocal patterns and over-all strength making suffering in silence just about the last way in which the listener suffers. However, even Bitter Peace A.D.’s vocal missteps are minor at most, as they do little to dissuade the listener’s focus from the unpredictable and garish instrumental backdrop that serves as their vector.
In two words, Bitter Peace A.D.’s debut is wildly unpredictable—but another two words to accompany it are barely passable. With few moments that successfully ensnare the listener’s attention and too many moments where the band just seems like a forced and random hodge-podge of hardcore, thrash and metal, the group have a solid, somewhat dyanmic foundation that feels left undeveloped. On one hand, this is probably exactly what the group were going for: chaotic, dissonant, errant aggression. On the other hand, whether or not it was their intent, it will be hard pressed to win over the hearts and ears of many heavy music enthusiasts. Where the group may be able to channel their obviously abundant energy and enthusiasm for chaos into a powerful live experience, their recorded aspect leaves something to be desired—where that something is a tighter, more synchronized and coordinated sound. With it, they would succeed in absolutely annihilating not just the listener, but their definition of hardcore—however, without it, they seem be simply putting the bitter into Bitter Peace.
For Fans Of: All Out War, Arkangel, Left Behind, Nuke//Town
By: Connor Welsh