I neither know, nor give enough of a fuck about modern hardcore to provide a fully satisfactory account of When Tigers Fight, a rich melange of hardcore musicians formerly of bands like Earth Crisis (yay), Hatebreed and The Promise. Let it be known that I come to this record with no real expectations of it and, paradoxically, a gut feeling that it, like much of the hardcore in my inbox, is going to be an utterly unlistenable account of how it feels to be trapped in a lonely, high school mentality where everyone is out to get you and no-one gets your angry, angst-ridden poetry. Henry Rollins wrote the book on this shit (Bad Brains and Minor Threat wrote the music), and you’re all welcome to try to beat Hank at his own game (assuming he doesn’t literally beat you first).
Where was I?
Right. Hardcore. If you’re still with me, I realise that it displays a certain amount of intellectual solipsism to begin a record review with a declaration of distaste for an entire genre of music, and for that I apologize. Please don’t stop reading. I can only hope that disgruntled hardcore kids keep to their Converge records (I always liked “No Heroes”) and don’t show up on my doorstep with pipes and chains and blaring the latest from Suicidal Tendencies. I’m too young to die and too stuck-up to listen to that bullshit.
“Death Songs” is the second album from When Tigers Fight, and the record is an excellent blend of punk and metal influences. The album’s deceptively raw 15-second opener ‘Never Want to Hear Your Voice’, is the kind of song I feared hearing on a hardcore record, all yelling and blasting and feedback. The lengthy second track, ‘L’Esprit De L’Escalier’ sets the tone for the rest of the album, and I’ve discovered that When Tigers Fight owe much more to their metal influences than to hardcore punk. The song is a fantastic dose of heavy riffitude and really grabs hold of the listener for the rest of the album’s short and sweet duration. Clocking in at 22 minutes, “Death Songs” wastes no time in getting to the point. The music on this album is caustic and furious in the best sense of the word, and it delivers a visceral listening experience that ought to satisfy any metalhead, punk or jaded music writer.
That said, the vocals and lyrics on the album are less than stellar. This is perhaps why hardcore’s intensity is both a turn-on and off-putting for me. Musically, the only thing better than a 3-minute thrashing of my eardrums in a 30-minute psych-wank of those same membranes. From a lyrical perspective, hardcore can often be limited by its simplicity into declaring incredibly ridiculous and trite expressions of emotion. When Tigers Fight suffers from this unfortunate sickness, and it’s too bad, I was enjoying the music so much. Vocalist Mike McTernan isn’t exactly suited to the band’s level of metallic fury, and I would have liked to have heard less lyrics like “I won’t let you down/I promise you/If I die/It’ll be for you”. Really?
So, “Death Songs”. This is a solid album that mixes metal and punk into a palatable set of songs. I enjoyed this record more than I expected (much more, considering I didn’t expect to enjoy it at all). It bristles with musical intensity (and is subsequently neutered by lyrical shortcomings). However, I am perfectly willing to admit that I might not ‘get’ what hardcore is all about. So, I guess what I want to say is listen to the record and remember that anyone (even yours truly) can be wrong some of the time. That should keep the hardcore kids off of my lawn.