Last week I found myself hanging out with a bunch of English hardcore kids (one of whom had no teeth), watching videos of hysterically terrible European “tough-guy” bands. It was so painful (probably because it was aping the worst U.S. groups of that nature), it made me yearn for good ol’ American HC. And then I thought twice.
Snapcase are the purveyors of “intelligent hardcore,” which is somewhat of a contradiction in itself, who espouse positive lyrics emphasizing “seeking the truth” and other tired clichés, under a blanket of mechanized guitar squeaks and stop/start locomotive drumming. Unfortunately, whatever nuggets of wisdom were picked up in their University of Buffalo philosophy courses are often lost in the barking vocals and assembly-line mosh parts of their music.
Regardless of my snobbery, I actually really liked Snapcase at their peak—the Steps EP and their last album, Progression Through Unlearning—both of which were groove heavy and fun. For that reason, it’s a shame for me to tell all of you ‘Case fans that Designs for Automotion is nowhere near as good as its predecessors, for several reasons. There’s a real Sick Of It All vibe running through these songs that works well when it’s SOIA who are playing them. Snapcase is a band that has been continually developing its own style, and there doesn’t seem to be a real reason to revert to the rawer, primal sound of the NYHC kingpins (represent!). For that reason, I’ve always found comparisons to Helmet to be more accurate.
The record opens with a couple of real clunkers devoid of any catchy riffs, until the fifth (!) song, “Are You Tuned In,” which is regrettably only two minutes long. The one other track that piqued my interest was “Energy Dome,” which is as churning and melodic as anything the late Quicksand might have done.
Outside of the lyrics, Snapcase’s music has fallen into a rut of uninspired tuneage. No less than four songs on Designs begin with their trademark lo-fi noodling, only to bombard the listener with a similar riff in full stereo sound five seconds later. Although still better than the latest legion of Victory Records releases (what ever happened to the glory days of 1995? Deadguy, Warzone, Bloodlet, Integrity, One Life Crew, anyone? I remember leafing though their slick-paged catalog as if it were a hardcore bible, of sorts), the Case need some inspiration, and perhaps some new Boss Metal Zone pedals.
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