Like it or not, many of the best hardcore releases of recent years have been those from bands who aren’t afraid to mix up their influences and push the envelope. CODE ORANGE probably spring to mind straight away, but there’s also TURNSTILE, VEIN.FM and now, perhaps, WOUNDED TOUCH. The Michigan-based five-piece are a metallic hardcore band at heart, but they clearly aren’t too interested in boxes or boundaries. Those in doubt need look no further than their debut full-length Americanxiety, which arrives this Friday via Smartpunk Records. It’s a record of knife edge ferocity, with a 26-minute runtime touching on screamo, noise, nu-metal, grunge and more. Not that it needed it, but hardcore has just found yet another band well worth keeping an eye on.
If one particular comparison springs to mind on Americanxiety, it’s to WOUNDED TOUCH’s release day compadres in VEIN.FM. Their sound is similarly chaotic and unhinged, with vocalist Nick Holland’s screams capturing a comparably tortured quality. It’s not a total rip off though; this band have definitely started to develop their own sense of identity, perhaps remarkably so for a debut offering. It comes lurching to the fore with the raging opener On Serrated Heartstrings – a flurry of contorted riffing, hawkish screams and a huge, crushing breakdown. Recent single Condolences And Autumn Nights delivers too, this one adding grungey clean vocals to the band’s already eclectic intensity. It’s a bleak track, with a palpable agony heard in Holland’s reflections on the recent passing of his closest friend.
Indeed, one of Americanxiety’s most compelling features lies in its bleakness. As alluded to by the title, this album centres around what the band describe as “the shared trauma in American society”, with much of the record’s lyrical content drawn specifically from Holland’s experiences as a paramedic at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It isn’t all on the nose, or even super intelligible at points, but it is hard to shake the sense of pain which permeates this record. Most of it comes from Holland in particular, his delivery often landing somewhere between Jake Bannon and Corey Taylor.
Behind Holland, the music itself runs along brilliantly without ever really pausing for a breath. Americanxiety’s tight runtime works in its favour, with ferocious highlights coming thick and fast. Fourth track and lead single Excerpts From A Violent Thesis is a prime example. It features guest vocals from none other than Trevor Strnad of THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, and sees the band inject some of their most throat-grabbing hardcore with gigantic, GOJIRA-esque riffing for one of the record’s hardest hitting tracks of all. It’s all strong from there too, with the band doing plenty to keep listeners fully invested throughout. Practically every track is a total rager, including not least the ETID-esque later highlight of A Prayers Unwanted Answer.
After a largely relentless run of chaos, the record draws to a close with the slight curveball of The Last Night Of Autumn (Refrain). It’s definitely the grungiest track on offer here, but still fits with the overall feel of the record. If anything, it’s a testament to what WOUNDED TOUCH have achieved with Americanxiety; this is a gripping record that touches on a lot of different places without ever feeling incoherent or overly confused. Of course, there are loads of bands doing really exciting things under the broad umbrella of hardcore at the moment, but even so you can count on lots of good things to come from this utterly compelling chaotic quintet.
Americanxiety is set for release on March 4th via Smartpunk Records.
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