With hardcore recently gate-crashing the Grammy nominations courtesy of the deservedly hyped Code Orange, and Turnstile’s alternative rock-infused take on the sub-genre currently creating a massive buzz in 2018, the timing of Vein’s full-length debut couldn’t be better. This exciting Boston band, who’ve been building a name underground off the back of a few intriguing EPs, a split, and an improving live show, have the potential to be this year’s breakout hardcore act.
Vein’s caustic sound is an interesting mix of influences. The grinding minimalism of late 1990s screamo bands such as Orchid or Jeromes Dream (i.e., real screamo, not the Disney version popular with swoopy-fringed kids during the last decade), as well as the math/noisecore movement pioneered by Botch, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Deadguy, Burnt by the Sun amongst others, plus nu-metal’s angst and ignorant grooves, and even soundtracks to horror movies and video-games such as Silent Hill and the Resident Evil series all feature.
errorzone melds those disparate-on-paper yet complimentary-in-practice styles into a volatile whole and does so without compromising the underground ethos of the band as heard on their previous releases. The explode-and-disappear song structures they’ve favored up to now return on their full-length, albeit with improved production. And this mostly concise and concussive method keeps the listener on their toes as the album flits by in a blur of beat-downs and jagged, shape-shifting, discordant riffs.
Much like Code Orange’s Forever, errorzone makes for a particularly exhilarating first listen. From the second the jungle drum ‘n’ bass of “virus://vibrance”—think Slipknot’s self-titled—kicks off, you’ve little clue about where you’ll be dragged next. On this track, the nu-metal pummel, disorientating bass drops, feral screams and hardcore hostility match the eerie, medical torture images of its music video where, amid shots of the band doing their thing, a guy has his eyeball surgically removed in a rather sadistic manner.
Some of Vein’s skronk-riddled licks cause similar trauma as a consequence of their angularity. Feedback is wielded as a weapon on “old data in a dead machine” and harnessed as part of the riff to the same ear-wrecking success as the songs on the Chariot’s Long Live album. “broken glass complexion” is a hybrid of TDEP’s warped chops and Converge’s white-hot aggression with subtle nods to Deftones in the singing and to Korn in its creepy leads. The syncopations of “rebirth protocol” also recall Bakersfield’s finest before a Suicide Silence-baiting deathcore breakdown erupts—all resolved within 1:06 minutes.
Album centerpiece “doomtech”, meanwhile, is as intimidating as hardcore gets. It’s the longest track here and full of chaotic interchanges that never lose their main aim of making your head swivel uncontrollably. While elsewhere, the Botch-ian slingshot riffs and rhythms of “end eternal” will no doubt prove electric in a live setting—particularly because of vocalist Anthony DiDio’s bug-eyed screamed hook of “The end / The end eternal!”
There is a good indication that these Massachusetts masochists may open their sound up in the future, too, as the post-metal of the latter sections of the title track suggests. Vein go blow-for-blow with Code Orange during the opening slash-and-burn of the guitars and drums and the song then transitions into the album’s most melodic, expansive passage—reminiscent of a less refined *Shels or Devil Sold His Soul—before residing in calm reverie with more clean singing. This dynamism in a welcome reprieve during an album comprised mostly of razor-sharp edges, even if the fleeting serenity gets shattered during the mechanized mathcore of finale “quitting infinity”, which comes bolstered by death metal growls and lurching Will Haven-esque riffs.
From the preceding, it might appear as though errorzone is strictly an exercise in spot-the-influence. There is a bit of that for fans of the aforementioned bands if they closely dissect the album to pinpoint the overly derivative aspects, of which there are a few. In reality, however, you’re too overwhelmed by the energy and passion of the delivery to care where exactly they have appropriated riffs and sounds from. Vein’s feverish spirit on record is, without question, their unique selling point.
Each development in heavy music is inspired by a trend that preceded it, that’s how fresh movements happen. As alluded to at the outset, it does feel as though hardcore is on the brink of riding a wave of heightened popularity right now. During the early days of the 21st century, hardcore was twisted into various forms by exciting new bands who went on to garner the critical acclaim and cult status. Refused, Converge, TDEP, Botch and the many challenging artists on Hydra Head Records at the time were too intentionally complex for mainstream metal audiences, however. The internet, for all its failings, has helped expand the horizons of not just hardcore followers but music fans at large. Underground acts were no longer as inaccessible and so a whole world of new sounds opened up for the listener with just the click of a button, leading to a broadening of tastes and suppression of musical boundaries.
Young musicians in hardcore bands such as Vein, Code Orange, Harm’s Way, or Turnstile have grown up in the digital age, and they’re taking the complex sounds created by those influential acts and melding them with the more mainstream metal bands of their formative years, whether it be Nine Inch Nails, Deftones, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, Slipknot or whoever. Therefore, the music this new breed is making may still be difficult to process initially for those who’ve not been exposed to subversive hardcore, but there are enough mainstream influences to balance out their styles and make it more palatable for a wider metal audience.
In this context, “palatable” does not mean “diluted”, as Vein’s debut confirms in all its unbridled contemporary rage. But there are moments throughout this album that seek to bridge the gap between hardcore/mathcore/noisecore and nu-metal and mainstream metal in general. This closing of the divide feels like natural and not done in a contrived manner, and if Vein and their peers continue to follow their muse in an organic fashion, then who knows where this expanding movement will take us.
For now, hardcore/metal fans have another thrilling new full-length to salivate over—and current tours in support of Code Orange, together with the reception this album will unquestionably receive upon its release should help elevate Vein’s status to where they deserve to be right now.