Here we go—the return of Jesus Piece, with a new album of premier, comprehensive beatdowns primed and ready to singlehandedly put Pennsylvania metallic hardcore back on the map. Y’know…if you just ignore Code Orange or Soul Glo hanging out over there…
To be fair, that kind of facetiousness held a lot more water in the past. Right now, it’s more accurate to say that Jesus Piece occupy a niche that Code Orange especially have simply outgrown. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that, given that Code Orange have deepened into industrial influences that are more their own, and that Jesus Piece are still pretty damn good at what they do.
Theirs is a brand of hardcore that gets there not through vast innovation, but rather just by going extremely hard, arguably more so than most others. That’s the general M.O. of …So Unknown, not even cracking half an hour and yet leaving more than a few cracks in the skulls of anyone in its wake. If anything, the tightness of it all only ramps up the power to even greater magnitudes; it’s lean and fat-free while still offering up a levelling wallop at practically every turn.
Aaron Heard is probably the most noteworthy factor in that, as a hardcore vocalist with utterly boundless potential for drawing out the unrepentant viciousness of the genre. His contributions more accurately come as bear roars than even your more ‘traditional’ gutturals, from the opening seconds of In Constraints that contort any utterances into body blows that most would struggle to withstand. Arguably, he’s the perfect encapsulation of where Jesus Piece’s interests lie when it comes to musical creation—variety or malleability come way down the list of priorities compared to sheer, blunt, bloody-minded destruction.
If that sounds as though it’s taking a shot at Jesus Piece for their own perceived simplicity, it’s really not. There’s never a point on …So Unknown that’s weighed down by that, nor do Jesus Piece sound as though they’re struggling to get to the finish line from an admittedly shallower pool of sources. Tracks like Silver Lining and An Offering To The Night show how much value can actually come from an approach like that, where the potential for something more taut and groove-heavy peeks through and shows a flash of dynamism that one might not expect. It’s not much, granted, and in the realms of hardcore and metalcore that’s hit tremendous heights from the ability to reshape or evolve, Jesus Piece aren’t quite giving that off. They feel more at home among the beatdown variants for whom repeatedly bludgeoning their crowd into submission is a more attainable goal, and that’s perfectly fine. There’s still a satisfying listening experience that can come from those acts, and Jesus Piece are no different.
If anything, they probably have a bit more going on that keeps them ahead, or at least enough to avoid falling into the bottleneck that ultimately stymies so much of hardcore like that. For one, they’ve yet to abandon production that marries raw mass with roughness and bared teeth; it’s emblematic of a streak of basement-dwelling hardcore that Jesus Piece clearly still have a kinship with, to their entire credit. Formula is there but it’s not the corporately-mandated kind, rather coming as the most effective vehicle for the band’s own tenacity and ferocity to keep barrelling by.
It’s just a really solid example of this sort of thing operating at full capacity, and doing exactly what it needs to to work. All of that can be true while acknowledging that …So Unknown is still not towering monolith of hardcore inventiveness; the two aren’t mutually exclusive by any means, and Jesus Piece hold that balance at lot better than most. And on an album that never really runs out of steam or drive, even multiple listens on, it shows. Besides, on the basis of it being a beatdown-focused hardcore album that genuinely feels like it wouldn’t hesitate to rip your face off at a moment’s notice, that’s more than most can reasonably deliver right there.
For fans of: Code Orange, Judiciary, Inclination
‘…So Unknown’ by Jesus Piece is released on 14th April on Century Media Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall