With every second we spend alive, we lose part of what makes us human. We hemorrhage our humanity; it spills out onto the sidewalk with every step we take, leaving our veins—and more importantly, our spirits—dry and deflated. Some people experiment with drugs to try and find that sense of love and livelihood again. Some people kill, steal, lie or cheat just to feel any twinge of a conscious that still might lurk somewhere within their skin or bones. Some people screw themselves silly; some people lock themselves in a room and isolate themselves from everything they feel is impure.
But then, there’s Massachusetts dark, noisy, violent metal-turned-hardcore band Values: they destroy. A sound described only by intense, dismal, gritty aggression turned inward, Losses is the stinging burn that follows the gutbusting sucker-punch that was their 2015 release, Violence. Fast and pissed enough to evoke emotion, but intelligent and introspective enough to make a lasting point, Losses is a jarring display of dissonance and despair that hits the listener right where it hurts.
With the absurd amount of raunchy, ruthless noise that Values hurl at the listener, it’s hard to believe they’re only a quartet. Indeed—they barrage their audience with the careless, tactless dissonance and destruction of an entire army; evident from the first seconds of “Losses” through short-but-pissed songs “Taguel” and the scalding “Learn//Burn.” Keeping a tenuous hold on time throughout the entire release is the band’s arrhythmically pounding heart, Jordan Tammaro. Tammaro’s percussive expertise sounds like a train of contemporary hardcore and metal musicians ran headlong into a truck of grindcore enthusiasts stuck on the tracks. Spastically blasting and hammering away during “Without Ballast,” yet launching into dancy segments during “Life” and “Taguel,” Tammaro is full of ride-bell-laden, heavy-hitting segments that segue into skull-splitting sections of speedy, sinister power. Alongside him is the gloomy and dark groovesmithing of bassist Corey Guyette. Guyette provides a beefy low-end that—true, at times—does get lost in the jarring fray that is Losses; however, a great majority of the time (like on “Conspiracy”), Guyette can be clearly heard rumbling alongside Tammaro’s tremendous, beefy kick drum, creating a tedious anchor for guitarist Brendan Baker to riff atop. For a band with prominent -core roots and influences, Baker spends precious little of his time chugging; instead, he prefers thrash-tinted riffs and moments dirge-like, gloomy atmosphere that help spread out the sections defined by speed and insanity. “Taguel” and the introduction to “Without Ballast” sees Baker at his most straightforward, creating hammering, hellish riffs that drop into beefy, gut-busting breakdowns just long enough to induce spin-kicks and pit stunts—but before long, Baker dives right back into catchy, cruel-and-unusual abuse of ultra-aggressive riffing, flaying skin and flesh from bone with lacerating-yet-wonton fury on “Sign of the Times” or “824.”
With a chaotic canvas to reign atop, It’s up to frontman Michael May to bring the raw, unfiltered frenzy of Values’ Losses to its peak—something he does with expertise and energy both. Where it might have been easy to just slap some raw, gruff yells overtop of instrumental dynamos like “Sign of the Times,” May instead takes a different and much more intriguing route, giving Losses personality to match its punishing nature. May is darkly personal and introspective throughout Values’ latest release—spreading himself across the seventeen minutes of sinister musicianship, infusing it with a twist of hatred, directing both inwards and outwards. “Losses” is bleak—plain and simple—with May’s vocals oscillating between a hefty mid-range yell and a gruff, low bellow. Meanwhile, “824” is catchier and athemic, with higher, more shrill vocals appearing as a welcome change of pace from May’s low grunts and grisly mid-range shouts. Shout actually might be the best way to describe May’s midrange, which is distressed enough to match the murderous intensity of the musicianship, but still unfiltered and intelligible enough to understand. While May’s vocals might not be the most technically immaculate out there, they’re emotionally riveting and as energetic as an orgy of energizer bunnies, making them a brilliant complement to the band’s instrumental stylings.
Where Losses is an intense as a heart attack, it’s also as short as one—which brings into question the only tangible shortcoming Values encounter on their latest release. While, on paper, the track list looks promising, it ends up feeling a bit brief for its own good. True enough—Values’ chaotic nature doesn’t lend itself well to 40+ minute albums (without making the listener want to take a buzzsaw to their own ears)–but seventeen minutes passes far too quickly given the strength and energy Values bring to the table. Songs like “824” and the closer, “Pulse” (which is the longest track on the album at just over two minutes) captivate the listener, making them want many more minutes of new material that simply aren’t there. That said, when the biggest fault with a release is that there just isn’t enough of it, then that speaks volumes for what the release does have—and in this case, Values have vicious, visceral, manic aggression and chaos for days upon days, even if their album’s run-time is a fraction of that time.
For Fans Of: Norma Jean, The Chariot, Bungler, Relapse
By: Connor Welsh