Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Young and in the Way-When Life Comes to Death (2014)

It's clear from the outset that Young and in the Way have designed "When Life Comes to Death" to be a holistic expression of negativity and violence.  Even before Kable Lyall’s voice gurgles its way out of your speakers in the opening "Betrayed by Light,” intent on strangling your ears, the album's artwork depicts only a huge-ass knife in the death grip of a tattooed, meaty paw.  The combination of the two experiences is powerful, and right from the start gives you a glimpse into the depths of the human psyche which Laball and co. plumb for the next 46 minutes.  Young and in the Way waste no time capitalizing on your shock, and as the opening feedback slips into the impending wall of distorted sludge guitar, you barely have a second to compose yourself.  It’s 2014, and YAITW know that you may have only known about their band’s existence for thirty seconds, but that thirty seconds--enough time to see the album artwork and pull up a song on YouTube- is all they need to convince you that they are tough as fuck.

“When Life Comes to Death” is 46 minutes of  hypnotic punishment.  Randy Baucom’s drums propel each song forward in the same style as many hardcore drummers, but in the mix he is an ethereal stomp, his cymbals pinging the corners of your ears while he alternately blasts and breaks down.  Rick Contes’ guitar sound is similarly otherworldly: the layering of tremolo-picked black metal melodies over the dirtiest rhythm tone ever make for a paradoxically visceral and cerebral approach to the most brutal hardcore put out in a long time.  Stop what you’re doing and listen to the first minute of “We Are Nothing” and try not to break something valuable in front of you.  

For all its brutality and negativity, "When Life Comes to Death" is hardly a simple full-court-press of sludgy guitars and black metal rasps (although both are present in top form).  The foundation of Young and In the Way's sound is a sludgy, grinding breed of hardcore, and it’s a sturdy  foundation.  These songs are some of the mightiest rippers ever unleashed.  What sets Young and in the Way apart from their similarly hard-ripping hardcore peers is the way they slot black metal hallmarks of tremolo picking and guitar atmospherics into the spaces normally reserved in hardcore for slower riffs and power chords.  It turns sections that would otherwise be hardcore tropes and turns them on their head.  It's a fresh take on both genres, and it should really piss off black metal kvltists, which is enough to sell me on a record to begin with.  That YAITW do it with such sincerity, ferocity, and brevity is a testament to their skill.  

The  expert application of black metal aesthetic is what pushes "When Life Comes to Death" above the glut of new hardcore releases.  It pervades each song, giving them a sinister air when most harrdcore songs would try get by on just momentum alone.  Case in point is track three, “Be My Blood”:  What would be a straightforward hardcore song in the hands of most bands becomes a grim , bone-breakingly heavy affair.  Perhaps the reason why it’s so effective and that I’ve been compelled to write about the effect at such length is that the black metal aesthetic is never used as a gimmick. As the textures unravel themselves to you, hidden under layers of grind, you’re so engrossed in the songs that YAITW can knock you on your ass in a second.  My favorite part of listening to a new metal record is how many times I have to sit back and think to myself “I am absolutely getting the shit beaten out of me.”  The black metal aspects of "When Life Comes to Death" spread that feeling out over the album’s entire duration.  Instead of moments of being astonished, you are perpetually held in tension.  By the time the album closer rolls around, its call to action is inviting: “Embrace Extinction”

An interesting aspect of Young and in the Way’s sonic palate is their use of undistorted guitar and piano sections to emphasize the brutality of the harsher ones.  It would be remiss to say these sections are any softer for their lack of electricity, for they allow the insidious malice of Young and in the Way's attack to sink in.  "Shadow of Murder," the album's massive penultimate track, sounds like a black/sludge version of Converge's classic "In Her Shadow," and that is the highest praise anyone in the hardcore scene can heap upon an up-and-coming band.  It's no surprise that Young and in the Way landed on the Converge-run label Deathwish Inc.  Deathwish has been spearheading a black metal insurgency as of late, releasing Deafheaven's fantastic black-shoegaze hybrid "Sunbather" last year to much acclaim and derision among the trve.  "When Life Comes to Death" stands firmly in this new tradition, and I hope Deathwish brings us many more albums like it--and Young and in the Way keep on pumping out more artifacts of rage like this one.

I think the Converge reference is intentional, and it indicates a self-awareness typically absent in releases this heavy, or at least releases that wear their obstinate dedication to heaviness on their sleeve like “When Life Comes to Death.”.  It acknowledges the capacity for heavy music to engage in explorations other than the depths of the human condition, while also declaring that "When Life Comes to Death" is not one of them.  It's a nuanced and cognizant method of placing the record in the annals of heavy music--"When Life Comes to Death" is timeless in its effect and aspect, but those results build off of the great oeuvre of hardcore and metal.  It's like a gangplank off a skyscraper--a jump off of the establishment into the fury below.  A record this heavy does so by both acknowledging and bucking tradition.  Young and in the Way do so with brutal aplomb.  You know what that is?  That’s fucking metal.

Check out Young and in the Way on Facebook.

Listen to their shit.  It's good.

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