The year was 2014—early 2014 at that—and, unbeknownst to the heavy music community at large, a storm was brewing; or maybe not so much a storm but a movement. From the swampy, humid, hurricane-racked depths of Florida, a band named Traitors would soon emerge with a debut EP, spear-heading a campaign that would blow out car speakers, bust up venues and beat in heads across the country—not just any campaign, though, this one was different.
This was the beginning of The Hate Campaign.
Five years and just as many records later, Traitors return with their latest full-length effort, aptly titled for today’s radical religious-meets-political atmosphere: Repent. Highlighting a more focused return to their roots, Repent sounds almost as if it was the dead-to-rights sequel of Traitors’ debut full-length, The Hate Campaign, with very little of the nu-metallic exploration seen on Sleep Terrors and Mental State. Instead, from the first seconds of Repent, the band go for the throat, diving into the darkest sound they’ve had in years. And it doesn’t let up. With everything from bone-splitting slams to uproarious closed-hi-hat mosh sections, Repent is both diverse and pointedly focused, bringing nothing but ignorant, arrogant, ruthless heaviness for fans of the band’s various styles to unite under.
Written as a trio, Repent is one of Traitors’ most focused records yet, cutting out much of the extraneous (albeit fun) nu-metallic influence for a much more raw and intense sound that rings true from the very get-go. Percussionist and songwriter Stephen Arango kicks off the album with a heavy hand and devastating drumming and doesn’t let up once for Repent’s duration. Songs like the groovy, catchy “Left to Rot” or “Dwell” see Arango’s more fluid and energetic side shine, whereas “Wasted Faith,” a track sure to become a cult hit, sees Arango let loose with a frenzied closed-hi-hat onslaught that could turn a Zen Garden into a mosh pit in mere seconds. Likewise, “Ignorance” is a slam-tinted slab of meat that sees Arango working brilliantly with guitarist Alan De La Torre to bring non-stop insanity to the album’s closing seconds. De La Torre’s work throughout much of Repent does just that—confidently infusing energy into even the most sluggish and sinister breakdowns to make sure that every second of Traitors’ latest effort hits harder than the last. “Wasted Faith” is, again, an excellent example, as is the album’s introductory number or “Suffocate,” wherein De La Torre oscillates from crunchy riffs to bone-crunching breakdowns without skipping a beat. The punchline to Repent, however, is that it returns to the band’s roots where Anger Issues, Mental State and Night Terrors strayed, branching out into different styles. Where each of those records have their strengths, their pitfalls stem largely from the fact that 95% (or more) of Traitors’ following and appeal is built on voracious aggression—the same aggression that made their self-titled debut and follow-up full-length hit so hard. Repent returns to those roots, keeping only hints of what made Night Terrors great and blending it into the penchant for catchy songwriting that was built up on Anger Issues. The take-away is that Repent is heavy as all Hell, nearing the likes of the band’s origin when it comes to just how pissed off it is, which means that if you, reading this, right now, are one of the umpteen social media warriors who have been writing “Y r u not hevy any more” on every status update the band have posted for the last three years, it’s time to sit down, shut up, and listen to what Arango and De La Torre have laid down on Repent.
But then, every movement needs a voice—and The Hate Campaign’s voice is, undoubtedly, that of Traitors’ frontman and resident preacher of all things pissed off and pestilent, Tyler Shelton. Shelton’s voice continues to grow on Repent, maintaining his steady upward trajectory when it comes to new and intensified pitches, tones and styles. Meanwhile, his lyricism—much more conceptual on Traitors’ previous couple cuts—has returned to a vibrant, vicious shade of red. Red in the sense that it instills a primal bloodlust and is fueled almost exclusively by hatred; hatred directed to others, internally, or, on “Ignorance” and others of that ilk, likely not directed at all. “Wasted Faith” and “Suffocate” follow in the footsteps of songs from The Hate Campaign, especially “Disappoint,” whereas “Ignorance” feels almost as if it is a relentless sequel to the band’s hit “Arrogance.” No matter which way you cut it, Shelton’s voice and lyricism are the perfect fit to Repent, delivering one-liner after one-liner, bellow after bellow after ungodly roar that make Traitors’ 2019 full length record feel like a freight train getting driven right into the listener’s skull.
Repent—it isn’t so much the conceptual theme of the record as it is an order placed to those who laid false claim to Traitors’ inability to capture their original “heaviness,” or to those who capitalized off of their popularization on the low-and-slow downtempo deathcore modus. Traitors have returned back to the point where they started, delivering a series of rambunctious and ruthless songs that hit hard and hit without mercy until the listener can do just what they already implied—repent.
For Fans Of: Bodysnatcher, Black Tongue, Filth
By: Connor Welsh