Published on October 16th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron0
SeeK / Altar of Complaints / Stubborn Father / Thetan
Top image: Ellie Photography
I love split records. The bands that don’t appeal initially have a way of worming their way into your affections over time, and you can end up liking them as much as your original favorites. A split CD gives all the bands an equal chance to win you over—and it often takes repeat listens for every song to share its secrets.
Other times every track hits you square between the eyes on the very first spin, and so it is with this monstrous four-way split between SeeK and Stubborn Father (both from Osaka), Thetan, and Altar of Complaints (both from Nashville).
A collaboration between three labels specializing in underground hardcore music—Kakusan Records of Norway, MeatCube of the USA, and Japan’s Longlegslongarms—the original concept for a four-way split album was the brainchild of MeatCube’s Ryan Lewis.
“Yeah, it was mostly me,” Lewis tells BNU. “I wanted to get Stubborn Father on a split with an international band, and was looking around. At first we were thinking about a normal split with Stubborn Father and Thetan, but the more the merrier, right?
“So I asked [Stubborn Father’s] Shige-san if he had a good band in Japan that would want to join them on the split. I knew other bands that would take part, but I thought it would be more meaningful if they picked someone they were close with on that side of the ocean. I talked to Dan [Thetan/Black Matter Mastering] about another local Nashville band. He suggested Altar of Complaints.
“That’s how we got all four together. For me, it’s a pretty meaningful split. Two of the bands are my really, really close friends and from Nashville, my hometown of 28 years. On the other side, when I studied in Japan, I was in the Kansai area and I hold a special place in my heart for a lot of the local bands.”
The album gets off to an explosive start with an eight-minute belter from SeeK. Known for their intense live shows, the band’s two bassists, guitarist, drummer, and vocalist whip up a storm of emotion. Vocalist Suguru throws everything he has into the performance, but SeeK are so much more than hardcore or screamo–革命と緩和 [Revolution and Relaxation] showcases the band’s talent for building and releasing tension with inventive arrangements.
Altar of Complaints is up next. Leif’s dissonant riffing, experimentation with rhythm and time signatures, and muffled, almost claustrophobic production references depressive black metal. They surprise again with Alone In The Middle of All This and Tuffcoupleoctopus, the former a melodic, uplifting slab of screamo that recalls the better moments on Deafheaven’s Sunbather (sorry if that reference offends, but I like that album); the latter brings bass-driven math-rock chaos.
For fans of Japanese hardcore, Stubborn Father needs no introduction. As their namesake suggests, they’re a stubbornly unconventional band.
Guitarist Fukusuke uses minimal effects to maximum effect with a knack for unusual chord shapes, and his playing is held up by one of the tightest and most punishing rhythm sections in the business.
The band contributes two tracks, the first leaping between moods in the blink of an eye, electrified by Shige’s unhinged vocals; and the second a new recording of crowd favorite創造の山 [Mountain of Creation]—this version crackling with raw and naked aggression.
The four-way closes with seven super-short but monstrously heavy cuts from Thetan, a bass-and-drums duo that manage to sound like an army of thousands.
The longest of these, Those Once Here, sounds absolutely cavernous. Over the following six tracks, the listener is treated to aggressive blastbeat and outbursts of frantic punk bass, the singer’s bellows buried nicely in the mix.
As the last note fades 13 tracks and 30 minutes later, you feel ready to take the trip again—in fact, this is the kind of album you could stick on repeat, pulling out new and satisfying details with every circuit. As a window into the hardcore scenes of Osaka and Nashville, this album’s difficult to beat.
Five blood-and-spit-soaked stars.