Review Summary: A repetitive but overall solid slab of hardcore.3 of 4 thought this review was well written
In the early to mid 1990's, hardcore underwent an abrupt change. Some bands were no longer satisfied with the classic hardcore sound and began incorporating heavier and faster instrumentation that was reminiscent of metal, and adding more complexity to the rhythms and compositions of a song. Bands who included the aggression of hardcore and an overall, more "metallic" sound were the origin of what became known as metalcore. Musicians who were more lenient towards writing the odd metered songs and crazy rhythms were labeled as mathcore, with bands like Deadguy and Botch who were tagged with the genre. Mathcore never seemed to attract as many followers during this time as metalcore did. The relentless nature of metalcore served as strong base for fans of both metal and hardcore. Unlike today however, early metalcore usually contained an equal amount of influence from both genres.With Snapcase, the only genre that actually fits the band is hardcore but to leave their description so vague would be a mistake. The entire band is rhythmically inclined (and they love to show it) and much of the guitar riffing is heavier than the traditional hardcore. The 1997 release from Snapcase, Progression Through Unlearning
carves a median between complex and accessible without ever indulging too much on one aspect.
From start to finish, the guitarists are the main focus of Progression Through Unlearning
and while that is mostly what aggressive records tend to zero in on, the repetitiveness is unavoidable. What the guitarists bring to the table are a slew of drop tuned power chord riffs, harmonic interplay and the occasional guitar quirks all of which usually contain intricate rhythms. The introduction of "Vent" is the prime example of the harmonic interplay between both guitarist and the rhythm section. Three quarters through the song, a galloping drum pattern emerges and suddenly, some of the harshest, dirtiest sounding harmonics I have ever heard starts shrieking and the best part about this section is that the guitarists manage to harmonize them while they're ear-piercing. "Caboose" features more of this technique being used quite well with split second pauses that display the tight musicianship of the band. The longest track on the album, "Breaking and Reaching" shys away from the rest of the album by slowing down the tempo and lets a darker mood be created. Here the bassist plays off of the rhythm guitarists heavy, droning chords. The dissonant chords and bass notes and the trudging drums turn out being very effective with the mid tempo grove that is absent on the rest of the album. The standout feature of Progression Through Unlearning
is the way the album was produced. Every instrument is incredibly crisp and clearly audible. The production is the main reason why this record has as powerful as it is. The bass drum has an incredible amount of force behind it, as do the guitars. The low, chugging guitar riffs come through clearly and never sound weak or muddy.
Even though Progression Through Unlearning
is (supposedly) a highly influential album in the realm of hardcore, there are a few problems that I found with it. The biggest of which is that every song sounds just like the one before it. Snapcase wrote a ton of great riffs for this album but they all are so closely related that telling them apart is a chore most of the time. There is only so many drop-C riffs you can play before they all start to sound alike. Apart from the music being repetitive, the vocals are the same. For the most part, I enjoy the vocals. I believe that the vocalists aggressively harsh scream is very fitting towards the bands sound. The problem here lies with how he almost never changes the tone of his voice. Sadly, 99% of the album features these vocals with the exact same tone and after a while, they can become tiresome with the lack of variety. What I will give him credit for is the intensity of his voice and his relentless approach.
Overall, Progression Through Unlearning
does a lot to keep the listener interested throughout. The musicianship is exceptional even with the presence of odd-meters and bizarre rhythms. All of the songs carry themselves with wonderful strength and vigor. What really brings Progression Through Unlearning
down is the lack of any really variety, save a few songs. The same style of guitar playing and vocals are featured in an overwhelming majority of the tracks which can provided a boring listening experience in some spots of the album but the formula that Snapcase has crafted works well. A solid hardcore release that mixes complexity with straightforward aggression.