I’ve been listening to hardcore pretty religiously for the last decade, in all of its many forms. It’s a very pervasive genre, and its influence can be traced through almost every other type of heavy music. While that makes it easier to dive into other subgenres and sounds, it also can make a lot of records sound remarkably unremarkable. But every time I think I’m sick of hardcore, over it even, some new record waltzes along and tosses me back into the pit, reigniting the fires I thought were dying out. This time around, it’s the new LP by Pittsburgh’s 156/Silence, the relentlessly vicious Irrational Pull.
Irrational Pull features an element of precision present that most other albums of the hardcore genre fail to reach. 156/Silence plays like a real unit—each instrument sits perfectly with its bedfellows, and every part feels intentional. The guitars twist spindly countermelodies together before diving headfirst into disgustingly low chugs, while the bass dominates the mix’s low end with a booming roar. The drums pound out fills that fit tightly against the strings and vocals, complementing the atonal and chaotic melodics inherent in each song. The vocals are simultaneously refined and raw: while most of the lyrics are shouted in a fry-flattened wretch, every word is articulated with precision.
156/Silence have their shit on lockdown when it comes to playing together, and this technical precision extends into their compositions as well. Every track on Irrational Pull makes heavy use of syncopation, with the whole band throwing their weight behind complex rhythmic riffing. Tracks like “Conflict of Interest” and “By a Thread – I Suspend” use alternating time signatures and tempo modulation to stir the pit into further chaos.
Even more impressive is 156/Silence’s mastery of tension and release. While much of the record is comprised of big palm-muted chords, punchy breakdowns, and crashing blastbeats, many tracks feature small but emphatic dynamic changes. “Lost Visual” mixes spacious chord arpeggios amid the thundering lows and screeching panic chords. Songs like “Problem Addict” and the title track pull back just a bit during the verses, so that the chuggy choruses hit that much harder when they come back around.
The vocals too use alternating dynamics to stir the tension within the songs; vicious throat-rending screams are placed side-by-side with spoken word, delivered in a quiet, aloof and somewhat disconcerting tone. The aptly-named final track “Denouement” entirely trades harsh screaming for emphatic singing, closing out a record of furious harsh vocals with soaring consonance and melodic mastery.
Irrational Pull is a record rife with meaning and sincerity, and the lyrics are no exception. The tone and language choices may come off initially as a little hot-headed and macho, much of that vitriol is in fact turned inward at the speaker. Statements like “I don’t want to call / I don’t want to concern them” and “I wish for death because I feel like a burden” from “God’s Departure” use very relatable language to describe a desperate battle with depression. “Irrational Pull” features a soul-baring look into the darkness, delivered in rapid-fire growls: “These voices tend to tear at all that’s left of my endurance and I’m hopeless….I’m worthless.” Yet it’s not all wallowing and self-hatred; lines like “I restrain my instinct to be violent” and “I feel the thunder underneath my skin” demonstrate stark self-awareness in the speaker’s grappling with an impulse for emotional outbursts.
I can’t imagine a more apt title for this record, because Irrational Pull has in fact drawn me back into a genre I thought I was moving beyond, and turned a step back into a leap forward. 156/Silence pump intention and aggression into their tunes, using complex instrumentation and introspective lyricism to shove the beating heart back into a genre I felt had been drained of originality. Some of these beats have been lodged in my skull for weeks, and only dig in deeper with each subsequent listen. I can say without doubt that hardcore has its hooks in me again, and I will certainly be returning to this record anytime I forget just how much this sound has to offer.
My Top Tracks: “Upset, Unfed” & “Irrational Pull”