Undoubtedly one of the defining bands of 2019 was Fever 333, not only serving as an excellent return for Jason Butler after the untimely dissolution of letlive., but an impressive feat in its own right for a band as unflinchingly acerbic and hell-bent on social change as this. And yet, it almost feels odd to say that Fever 333 overshadowed Butler’s concurrent other project Pressure Cracks throughout the year, mostly because it feels like very few actually know they exist. That’s not exactly untoward though, especially when their sonic palette is much narrower in its worship of classic hardcore punk with the slightest hint of an update, but also because, for as solid as their 2018 EP was, that’s really all that’s been heard of them so far. It’s not like This Is Called Survival is set to change that much either, but that doesn’t feel like the aim of Pressure Cracks on the whole. It’s more of another outlet than anything else, and on that basis with expectations that aren’t bound by the same amount of weight as will inevitably be attributed to Fever 333 going forward, Pressure Cracks are most definitely capable of delivering.
What’s more, this feels like the perfect vehicle for Pressure Cracks to get the absolute most from their sound, a four-song EP clocking in at around ten minutes without a moment of filler in it to ensure it hits roughly about as hard as is possible for this sort of thing to hit. Even if This Is Called Survival really isn’t innovating to any great degree (something that a rather open acknowledgement of makes rather refreshing), but when it’s honed to this level of pointedness and the band sound as though they truly believe in what they’re selling this much, that’s more than a suitable workaround. It’s enough to make this feel not just like a great EP, but Pressure Cracks as a great hardcore band in their own right.
On the same token, that comes from Pressure Cracks feeling like a foil to Fever 333 to balance out Butler’s skills and techniques as a performer. Here, the focus is exclusively on rage, pushing Butler into his velociraptor screeches harsh enough to shatter bulletproof glass on a track like Ready For You, where the rest of the band prove more than capable at hammering out a galloping backing canvas akin to the most formative acts of hardcore, but can still seamlessly contort it into something a lot more contemporary in its sledgehammer drums and bass that only amp up the heft further. That’s pretty much Pressure Cracks’ exclusive formula, but thanks to both a phenomenally tight runtime and a keen knowledge of how and when to bend the sound to their wont, there’s a freshness that the sharp, crunchy production only further facilitates, especially on a track like Shhh with an excellent sense of weight behind it. And yet, for all the parallels that can be drawn with ‘80s hardcore in ethos and execution, Pressure Cracks still bring the detail and literacy that anyone would expect from both a modern act in this vein, and one fronted by Jason Butler. The thematic and lyrical pools aren’t quite as deep as the best of letlive. (because not much actually is), but the context of the sample explaining statistics of recidivism in the US justice system that opens Like Father Like None or the closing mantra of “Heaven might be shootable, but hell on earth is beautiful” on Big T Youth have that sort of interweaving construction and weight that characterises best of Butler’s writing. On top of that, it’s all enormously populist, something that this sort of destructive hardcore assault frequently needs to land as firmly as possible.
When that’s all executed with such bloody-mindedness as this, it makes for an EP that leaves a pretty sizable crater in modern hardcore that doesn’t look to be filled in a hurry. The fact it’s coming from what’s effectively a side-project on top of that only makes Pressure Cracks that much more impressive of a notion, but in terms of sheer talent and musical pedigree on offer, there’s really no reason for that not to be the case. This Is Called Survival has destructive potency woven into its DNA, and bringing that to the fore while being as simply and unceasingly riotous as this is only extra fuel for a band waiting for their moment to come. Granted, the ascent of Fever 333’s star is showing no signs of slowing down just yet, but the mere fact that Butler has got this just waiting in the wings just strengthens the claim that he’s a true, one-of-a-kind artist even further.
For fans of: Employed To Serve, Sick Of It All, letlive.
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘This Is Called Survival’ by Pressure Cracks is released on 10th January on War Against Records.