I’ve been denying it for quite a while now, but goddamn it do I miss live music. Live shows were my main avenue for finding new bands—there’s nothing like seeing a group of people you don’t know walk up onstage and suddenly explode with fury. About a year ago, one such band stumbled into my life and blasted my memories all over the crowd with their vicious live performance: the NY hardcore group Ego Death, whose new EP My War truly captures the raw, chaotic energy of their live performances.
My War seethes aggression like a viper coiling to strike. The vocals are absolutely soaked in venom and virulence, every syllable a roar against the walls of distortion. The guitars are played more like percussion than string instruments: each chug resonates with a low-end bang, and the bass strings rattle and slap against the pickups like they’re barely holding on. Beneath the drop-tuning and dimed gain, the drums smack and smash out slow rhythms that suddenly cut into skank beats and jackhammer kick patterns.
Though there is an obvious hardcore vein in their sound, Ego Death don’t get caught in the trap of perpetual palm mutes and breakdowns, where so many of their peers seem content to remain. Rather, they use My War to explore dramatic shifts in tempo and feel. “Gangway PMA” tears off at a hectic pace, shoveling snare rolls and a wild guitar lead like coal into the engine of a runaway train. “Objector” features rhythmic riffing that is both mosh-inducing yet danceable, while “43” works uses dissonant guitar melodies and a driving chord progression to accent the headbanging outro. Ego Death even toys with alternate time signatures in the opening of “No Faith,” before tearing into the track with grimy chords and a kick drum so pounding, it might as well be Jack Torrance swinging his ax.
One of my favorite aspects of My War is how fluid the song structures are. While a few tracks like “Gangway PMA” and “Banner” use recurring verses or sections, most of the songs feature guerilla compositional tactics. The collage-style construction and short song lengths let each tune smash the listener with heavy chords and bruising drum beats. Ego Death strings one riff into the next, giving each section of the song a short time in the light before leaving it behind. Stop/start dynamics create dramatic shifts, while tracks like “No Faith” or the title track ignore transitions completely in favor of hard cuts.
More than anything else, Ego Death’s brand of hardcore pushes the use of crushing rhythms, a charge their rhythm section is more than ready to spearhead. The drumkit gets truly brutalized across the length of My War, whether beating on the toms like war drums in “Break” or sneaking a sudden vicious blastbeat in for the end of “Banner.” The guitars actually drop out quite often on the EP, taking a feedback breather to let the bass guitar pummel the riff to pieces. The band even hands the end of the EP to the rhythm section: over a stomping and crashing beat, the bass guitar rattles and roars like a mythical beast tearing through a forest, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
My War is 100% high energy and 0% fucks. Ego Death bash their instruments’ brains out in the process of creating their music, and the end result is like a tornado full of chainsaws. With deadly riffs, driving vocals, and plenty of low-end terror, Ego Death have entirely reignited my craving for live shows, for shitty beers and dark corners in a room soaked in low-tuned guitars. I hope to God I can catch them live when this is all over, because if they can make a record this devastatingly heavy in the studio, then their next live show will undoubtedly crush me to death in the best way possible.
My Top Track: “Banner”