To Hell And Back is a weekly column in which Noisey metal editor and lifelong hesher Kim Kelly explores the extreme metal underground and recommends her latest faves.
Last week, I headed all the way out to the ass-end of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to see a hardcore show, and inadvertently ended up crashing a birthday party instead. My goals that evening were to see my Ohio political hardcore faves Minority Threat play their very first New York City gig, and to have a nice night out with my sweetheart, who’d grown up in the Lower East Side punk and hardcore scenes.
However, without realizing it, we’d walked straight into a birthday bash for two linchpins of the New York hardcore community—Flora Lucini of “Afro-progressive hardcore” band MAAFA, and Puerto Rican Myke of Bronx bruisers District 9.
There was a sort of record scratch moment when we walked in—me with my long blonde braids and him covered in spikes—when it felt like every heavily tattooed neck swiveled in our direction to give us the once-over. Hardcore’s oft-referenced (and occasionally parodied) “family”vibe was in full effect, and we were obvious outsiders; nobody gave us any shit, but we didn’t make any new friends, either. It was oddly comforting.
At this point, for the two of us, metal or punk shows are basically just social events with distortion, and it was nice to just stand in a room and watch some bands play without getting distracted by friends (or trapped by punishers).
Minority Threat was second on the bill, after the neon-drenched, hardcore/hip-hop fusion outfit Rebelmatic, and roared through a tight 22-minute set seemingly without blinking. I was sad that it flew by so quickly, but the cardinal rule of playing live is, always leave ‘em wanting more, and that’s exactly what they did. We bought some merch after, and contemplated dipping outright. I don’t know that I’d ever been to a proper, full-on, fuhgeddaboudit NYHC show, and my man had gotten all pumped up on Billyclub Sandwich and old school Madball before we left for the gig, so stay we did.
One of the other bands, NJ/PA squad Dissent, eschewed the expected beatdown vibes in favor of straight-up early 2000s metalcore, which sent me two-stepping down memory lane—straight back to the shitty South Jersey local shows where I spent so much of my high school years. I’ve been into metal as long as I’ve been into music, but growing up where I did, there weren’t exactly a lot of options for a budding hesher to explore her metallic interests (at least until I got my drivers license and perfected the art of sneaking out to death metal shows in Philly).
My best friend and I would make pilgrimages out to these grimy veterans’ halls, fire houses (rural South Jersey is a trip), and weird “entertainment complexes” complete with batting cages and snack stands selling vile microwaved pizza to watch local bands like The Concubine and Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus diligently do their best to rip off Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge for hours on end.
Those were the first places I encountered hardcore dancing (what those nerdy suburban scene kids did does not deserve to be called slam dancing) and were the backdrops to a few of my first fights. The music was terrible, of course. I didn’t even like hardcore, and was knee-deep in my gory death metal phase. Neither did my best friend, who was the only be-Mohawked folk punk in Burlington County. Half of those teenage evenings were spent avoiding the bands entirely, sitting on the curb outside talking shit and warily eyeing the older kids smoking nearby.
We still went, though, because it was all we had. Through going to those terrible shows, we got our first taste of what it might feel like to be a part of a real music community—the tiniest whiff of what it must’ve felt like to be a part of the NYHC scene back in the 80s, or for that matter, Florida death metal in the 90s, or Fest-adjacent punk in the early 2000s. It was intoxicating, and when we both moved to Philadelphia for college a few years later, we finally got to sink our fangs into the respective underground scenes we’d been dreaming about for so long.
With all that running through my head, I watched the last few moments of the band’s set, then tugged on my companion’s sleeve and suggested we leave. This party was just getting started, and while we had every right to be there as music fans, we hadn’t been invited. I didn’t want to outstay our begrudging welcome (and besides, when you’ve spent the past 18 years listening to the thornier strains of heavy metal, breakdowns and gang chants tend to get a little stale after a few songs).
Community is important. Respect the ones that others have built, and take care of your own.
Speaking of political hardcore, Terminal Nation are fucking ace. On new track "ICE Watch," this Arkansas outfit comes in hot, and take no prisoners; their take on grinding noise violence carries a dose of Cleveland (by way of Integrity and Ringworm) in its back pocket, but comes loaded with enough filthy powerviolence to keep things interesting—and real ugly. (They're also anti-fascist, anti-cop, and hate capitalism and the government, which is an instant win in my book).
Order of the Gash
Yo, I am so PUMPED that Order of the Gash has new material out! It's been ages, and I'm a massive sucker for this king of groovy-with-bite black/thrash. This Portland trio has kept mum since 2012's Configuration album, but recently resurfaced with a sneaky new EP, Ageless Beauty, that's an absolute gem. This band is criminally underrated and y'all need to get on this, stat.
Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean
What's better than a new song from Massachusetts sludge nihilists Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean? A whole new EP featuring a fuckin' DEVO COVER from Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean! "Gut Feeling" never sounded so heavy and utterly bereft.
Stoked on this new tune from this absolutely ripshit North Jersey hardcore punk band that I've gushed about before. "Shut Up, Get Fucked" is featured on a compilation by Choke Artist, and 50 percent of the proceeds from Bandcamp sales will go to Best Friends Animal Society, a non-profit animal welfare organization.
This far-out, ambitious new music video for San Francisco heavy metal hellions Space Vacation was animated and directed by Natur's Ryan Weibust, and perfectly accompanies their rockin' 80s metal aesthetic and high octane speed metal vibe (I hear a lot of High Spirits in their sound, and that's 100 percent a compliment). "The Black Divide" comes off the band's latest release, Lost In The Black Divide ( out now on the aptly-named Pure Steel Records). Keep it true and get wicked hammid, kid!
It's been raining all week, and Gentle Decline, the debut from Manchester, UK's VOW, is the perfect soundtrack to winter's slow creep. Gorgeous, cinematic, proudly leftist post-black metal from the coal-darkened recesses of the cold, rainy British Isles? Sign me right on up, please and thank you.
Kim Kelly is Noisey's metal editor; follow her on Twitter for more blastbeats and bullshit.