The upward trend of hardcore / melodic hardcore music has seemingly come to a peak in the past several years. From genre heavyweights such as Counterparts and Stick to Your Guns releasing virtually all music to critical acclaim, to scene newcomers Knocked Loose reaching #26 on the Billboard 200 with A Different Shade of Blue, the long-buried musical categorization has been enjoying its moment in the spotlight. Even with a vibrant underground community, the current state of hardcore music has swayed more towards experimentation than other genres typically has in recent time. Industrial, melodic, and metallic elements have become increasingly evident in new discography entries. As more unorthodox music has come out to critical response, more roots-leaning hardcore is released with little to no reaction. With Delaware-based Year of the Knife’s debut album Internal Incarceration, traditional hardcore takes center stage as a flurry of frustration, discontent, and sheer anger consume the soundscape that is presented to the listener. With just enough outside influence to catch the internet explorer, the five-piece have created an album that has something for everyone.
Produced by Kurt Ballou (Converge, Nails, Code Orange), the album wastes no time getting started with “This Time”, a cathartic and frenetic track that showcases Tyler Mullen’s ferocious vocals and vitriolic lyricism. The record’s theme is coping with loss and grief, as well as enacting change to the negative behavior that has and is currently plaguing the world. With this song, Mullen’s thoughts on the public’s heedlessness are amplified over the sounds of distortion and restlessness the instrumental creates. After some feedback, “Virtual Narcotic” starts with no warning, and is just as fast-paced as its predecessor, but with a different message; one about being addicted to social media and technological reliance. “Stay Away” has one of the nastiest riffs I have heard in some time; albeit not the most complex, it is an immediate head-banger. The brooding guitar chugs behind Mullen’s vocals before the transition into your typical hardcore 4/4 time signature really add to the gritty atmosphere that YOTK is attempting to convey.
“Manipulation Artist” feels like a by-the-book hardcore song for the most part until the second half of the song, where the instrumentals really showcase the death-metal influence that was stated as being on the record. The breakdown is also the best one on the record, and with Internal Incarceration being chock-full of breakdowns, that is saying something. “Final Tears” is one of the most positive songs on the record in terms of lyricism, and Mullen’s transition to high-mid screams was a nice change of pace from the mostly guttural performance that was present so far in the record. “Internal Incarceration” felt like the most COMPLETE song on the record in that the structure of the song was vital to the way that it played out. Every tempo change is played with pinpoint precision and no instrument falters in the sonic buildup of the track.
“Premonitions of You” did not have anything in particular that stood out to me as the “moment” in the song, but overall was a solid song to listen to. “Through the Eyes” was a standout from the moment the drums kicked in. Speaking about the opioid crisis that has ravaged the country, the deeply personal song is accurately conveyed with a sense of vitriol that was heightened for this particular entry. “Sick Statistic” has been out for over a year as a part of the Pure Noise Tour split, but the song packs a punch just as hard as it did the day it was released. The sheer aggression shown through this track makes it a highlight of the record.
“Eviction” is another track, especially after following up the first single from the record. Blazing fast, the song showcases the band’s ability to play at breakneck speeds. “Nothing to Nobody” highlights the bass guitar with some isolated audio and makes for a jaw-dropping track on the back half of the record, which is not always easy to accomplish simply because of listener fatigue. “Get It Out” features heavy distortion behind the vocals to create a sense of uneasiness that is a bit different from the rest of the record. The two-step section in this track is also one of my favorite sections of the entire album. Leading into the breakdown, it was almost impossible for me not to break my chair with how much I was moving along. Album closer “DDM” closes Internal Incarceration the same way it began: with the feeling of disgust towards the current state of the earth and the will to want to change it.
Overall, the record may seem like a traditional hardcore record to the average listener. The influence outside of the genre is evident, but it is not overbearing to the point of the band having that stigma associated with the record. Instead, Internal Incarceration offers a variety of topics and sounds for the listener to digest, rather than spoon-feeding the same message brought forth by so many preceding bands. It feels as if the band’s catharsis releasing this record was almost necessary; the urgency is there and the message is ever-present within a lot of minds today. The real question is whether or not the listeners can take this to heart. I think this will be a very influential record to a new wave of hardcore music in due time.
I give Internal Incarceration a 9.0 out of 10.
Standout tracks are “Manipulation Artist”, “Sick Statistic”, and “Get It Out”.
This album will be available for public listening tomorrow via Pure Noise Records.