Review Summary: This is early 80's hardcore.
There’s something so fitting about punk, and more specifically hardcore, bands splitting an LP. Perhaps it’s because so many punk bands can’t find a way to make their sound variable and interesting, or maybe it’s just because they have fifteen songs written and those amount to about eighteen minutes of music. Whatever the reason is it’s probably that one of the earliest examples of a split LP in the punk world ended up being considered one of the best of its type.
came from Washington DC in the very early 80’s and were signed to the legendary Dischord label that released this momentous split. Faith
were a bit more restrained than most of their peers and perhaps even a little slower as a result of it. Their vocalist, Alec Mackaye, is the brother of Ian Mackaye who sang for such well known acts as Minor Threat
. This relationship makers itself only slightly apparent in Alec’s vocal delivery, but that doesn’t mean it is non existent. While Alec sings perhaps more gruffly than Ian ever sang there is a resounding quality that both of their voices share. That description will be nominal to one unfamiliar with any of Ian’s works so perhaps it is best to say that Alec shares similarities to many other hardcore bands of the era. He does the traditional yell standard to the genre, but like the rest of the band he does seem to hold back from losing control over his voice. He does not succumb purely to fury like a million other bands, but instead uses a more careful tone to reflect anger but one that does not detract from their well chosen lyrics.
’s lyrics are truly atypical for the genre at the time. They are thoughtful use that to fill the gaps that their musical restraint leaves. They refer to early straight edge culture and even dare to say “Live fast die young, you’re full of ***” which is a total rebuttal toward the nihilistic nature that hardcore had at the time. The lyrics may even be referencing a line off of The Circle Jerks
’ first album about living fast and dying young. Faith
instead strove for fewer personally destructive and more thoughtful and introspective lyrics, and it is little surprise that the band went in the direction they did after this release. Their last EP began to push the boundaries of early post-hardcore, and Embrace
is the same band except for an exchange of Mackaye brothers.
Of course so far I have only talked about the times they put down the sword in favor of the pen, but this band had their edge that kept them decidedly hardcore. The guitar work is truly nothing special, and although they do allow sections for the bass to be the main source of melody they generally fail to do anything overly interesting with it when they bring it out of hiding. The great instrumentation that comes through on their side is in two parts. First is the drumming. The drummer generally uses relatively simple beats, but at seemingly random points in those standard beats he will break free and smash about a million drum heads finishing just in time to keep the pattern he had set up previously. It all comes off as very random and unpredictable yet still well executed. Next is the feedback that they use throughout their side. They manage to place their feedback tastefully (and dare I say artistically?) throughout their songs as a subtle and unexpected weapon. Essentially they manage to use it when there would otherwise be something lacking, but they don’t overuse it to the point where it feels like assault.
And then there’s Void
use feedback. They use quite a bit of feedback, truth be told. They also use chaos, violence in an astonishing combination. Everything that Faith
did on their side with restraint in order to create great music Void
ignores. They may have heard of their restraint rule book, but they probably ripped it up. It would make sense as half of their lyrics are about throwing a middle finger up to authority. In many ways this gain of intensity at the loss of more powerful lyrical work is what makes this split so great. Essentially, Void
are opposite sides of the same hardcore coin.
were basically the precursor to thrash metal. They obviously aren’t super accomplished musicians but are playing as well as they physically can, or perhaps better than they can, as much of their music comes off as random. This stems from the wildly picked guitar solos as much as the vocalist trying to make as much noise as he possibly can. I’m not sure how it is that they manage to keep the listener guessing at exactly where the music is going to next. The musicianship is potentially so well calculated that they could actually manage to write and play this music as well as it sounds, but it is more likely to be otherwise. They probably just decided they wanted to go, they wanted to go loud, and they wanted go angry and simply cut loose from there, destroying anything in their path. If that’s what they wanted, well… they did it.
It’s no surprise to see that this split has stood the test of time for nearly thirty years now. There is no denying the influence that either band has had on the punk scene as it evolved and mutated over the rest of the 80’s. The reason that is most likely has retained its power though, is how well it documents the entire DC punk scene of that day. From the straight edge and introspective lyrics to the cliché, and from the restrained musicianship to the absolute insanity and technicality it truly captures the broad spectrum that existed at that time. And while Dischord as a whole shows the history of underground music in the area very well over thirty years, this one twelve inch record captures five years in around a half hour.