ARTIST: EARLY BLACK
TITLE: III: UNCONDITIONAL
LABEL: MARK MY WORDS RECORDS
WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON
London’s Early Black have been a band for a few years now but are finally starting to get some of the recognition and attention they deserve. The four piece hardcore noisemakers have been playing up and down the UK and their new release ‘III: Unconditional’ is a welcome addition to their back catalogue. Named ‘III’ because it’s their third release (not including singles), this one has a lot more meat on it than their previous four and six track EPs, and at eight songs and just over twenty minutes could surely be considered an ‘album’. It is a hardcore album, after all, and there’s certainly no shortage of the blistering, short, angry bursts of songs typical of the genre.
The album opens up with ‘Self Critical Acclaim’, beginning with feedback and a riff of heavy guitars, distorted almost beyond the point of recognition. When the drums kick in, they’re tight, suspenseful, and make your heart race just a little bit before the song finally explodes into an instrumental verse. The vocals don’t start until past the one minute marker, and when they do, they consist of brutal pain-drenched screams of angst buried low in the mix. It immediately feels like vocalist Wil Collins puts everything he has into this, and it’s that sensation that’s so captivating about this band as a whole. You know they mean it.
“there’s certainly no shortage of the blistering, short, angry bursts of songs typical of the genre.”
Underneath the wall of noise, you can hear more delicate, thought out guitar licks and patterns, showcasing the complexity of the songwriting. This isn’t just a bunch of heavy chords with the gain whacked up to 11. And by the time it gets to the breakdown, you can hear the vocals better, with Collins’ guttural, throaty delivery cutting right through to the soul. The construction and pace make for a breathtaking opener and one that’s going to absolutely kick off in the pit. Standing at the longest track on the record at four and a half minutes, you already feel emotionally drained by the time you get to the end, yet still ready for more.
Second track ‘(I Wish) Only Plagues’ continues the collection in dramatic fashion , combining elements of slower, drawn out sections with scissor kicking, machine-gun drums and frenetic guitars, with the shortest song on the record ‘Annie Tastes Eternity’ featuring some blistering guitars with satisfying distortion effects and an eerie post-punk vibe. A lot of these tracks have a sort of aura about them; of dirty cityscape, of drunken dark nights and dreary cloudy days where you’re fed up with the 9 to 5 and just want to escape. There’s an atmosphere about the music this record puts across which are difficult to pinpoint but noticeable all the same. They capture the imagination.
That atmosphere continues into the drawn out, meandering tones of ‘I Feel That Something Important Is Happening Around Me…’, tension and drama building up slowly over the first minute and a half as an atmospheric soundscape slowly rises into a Joy Division style drum beat with depressed, softly spoken vocals over the top. It’s a drastic change from the first three tracks, and the dip is perfectly placed to allow the listener a breather, adding to the impact of the rest of the record. ‘Drain’ almost feels like it carries on from the previous track. It begins quiet and dark, with that same vocal style, lulling the listener into a dreamy spell that’s not broken until around one minute and fifty seconds in, with Kurt Cobain-esque angsty screams of the title as the guitars swirl and echo underneath, and by ‘Jasmines’, the breather is over and we’re back into the dirty grinding hardcore sounds, this time with a bit of a blues, heavy rock vibe, the band truly showcasing their masterful grip on many variations of songwriting and genre.
“truly showcasing their masterful grip on many variations of songwriting and genre…”
‘Lack/Love’ contains a memorable chorus with singalong potential, and runs smoothly into final track ‘…And It Scares Me’, finishing off the collection with some nice guitar licks, fuzz and more dark, eerie drama. One of the interesting aspects to note about the album is the clever choice of titles and the placing of songs. Firstly we have ‘Self Critical Acclaim’, which is obviously a play on words – “self critical” and “critical acclaim”. Then there’s track four’s ‘I Feel That Something Important Is Happening Around Me…’ which is quite clearly meant to be connected to the aforementioned ending track ‘…And It Scares Me’, and not just in terms of titles either. Musically, it’s easy to hear a connection between them, and is well worth playing the two songs back to back once you’ve finished a full listen. It just goes to show the song titles, and their placing within the running order, have been well thought about too, not just the music.
To sum it all up then, ‘III: Unconditional’ is quite the collection, and it’s easy to see why Early Black have been getting attention. There’s no one else who really sounds like them out there; they have something unique, and the way things are going for these guys, 2019 could be the year they really start to break big and make that impact on the scene.