REVIEW: Contention – Artillery from Heaven [2024]


Artist: Contention
Album: Artillery from Heaven

Without beating around the bush, Artillery from Heaven sounds exactly as advertised. Until the roll-out for this record, I hadn’t really heard much of Contention’s music—maybe a snippet here or there—so I didn’t really know what I was getting into outside of hearing generally positive commentary across a couple different social media platforms. Enter Artillery from Heaven—a blistering salvo of scathing metallic hardcore armed to the teeth with skin-rending riffs, weapons-grade breakdown and the type of barbaric intensity that seemingly only the straight edge can provide. Contention’s breakout full length release is a masterclass in the above, rightfully earning them a position among the most exciting and talented young metalcore/metallic hardcore acts of the year, if not the decade.

Contention’s approach to heavy music is one that is raw, polished to a point of cohesion but still with enough roughness around the edges to a point of skin-tearing serration. Artillery from Heaven has the technical intensity and metallic structure of a metalcore record with the ethos and primal fury of a hardcore LP. From the off-putting introduction to the record’s introductory title (and the band’s eponymous track) to the crushing salvo that defines “IED,” Contention’s initial onslaught carries an intensity that defines—and propagates itself through—the entire release. The percussion is punchy, quick and efficient, making tactful use of technically stellar fills to piece together rip-roaring two-steps and raunchy grooves that fill in spaces between world-ending breakdowns. In keeping with this, the band’s bass-work is monstrous, adding depth and impact to the already punchy nature of Contention’s percussion. “Ousted from Eden” alongside the terrific “Chasm” are excellent examples of this, with the latter showcasing the band’s more “metalcore” side in a purely complementary way. “Chasm” also does an excellent job of showcasing the band’s fretwork, which confidently strides the line between pummeling the listener’s brain into dust and setting their ears ablaze with furious riffing. “Inflict My Will” is another barn-burner that highlights Contention’s instrumental proficiency excellently, blending dynamic riffs and breakdowns together into a monolith of metallic hardcore perfection.

In keeping with the band’s short, primal and punishing approach to heavy music, the band’s vocal elements can perhaps best be described as visceral. “In the Land of Nod” is home to year-defining vocal and lyrical intensity, as is the ravenous cut “Inflict My Will,” where bitter shouts and shrill screams seem to work overtime. “Ousted from Eden” features support from Broken Vow’s Tommy Harte, dogpiling on the dynamism and intensity. Within Artillery from Heaven’s confines, there are no soaring melodies or moments of serenity to be found, only harshness and abrasion as far as the eye can see and as loud as the ear can hear—and it melds with the relentless nature of Contention’s instrumental onslaught perfectly, delivering a calculated-yet-overwhelmingly-passionate display of aggression that should be the genre’s blueprint going forwards.

Artillery from Heaven is an outstanding release. Maybe I’m a touch flabbergasted given the moderate expectations and lack of familiarity with the band I had going in, but I like to think that even if my expectations were sky high, they would still be blown asunder. Contention are both poignant and punishing; passionate yet totally misanthropic and devastating in their deliverance of a scalding straight edge barrage, and Artillery from Heaven deserves its flowers as one of the most immense debut full length LPs of its type.

For Fans Of: Inclination, Extinguish, Foundation
By: Connor Welsh