Justin Pearson’s track record is impressively proficient, being involved in such notable acts as spazz-grind aficionados The Locust, Holy Molar, Head Wound City and now Retox. It’s unsurprising then that a split EP released on his own label Three One G Records with metalcore powerhouse Narrows would live up to the standards he himself has so consistently set. With each band supplying 2 tracks, there’s an interesting contrast between two approaches to hardcore contained here. Narrows’ bass driven, dense version of metalcore is the antithesis of Retox’s spazzy, tumbling approach found in “This Should Hurt a Little Bit” which constantly shifts through riffs and drum fills with chaotic fervor to the point where it could be one of The Locusts more straightforward tracks.
Narrows kick off the EP with two of their best tracks, tracks that outshine the singles off their previous efforts. “Ride the Lion” and “Blood Python” ripple with energy from beginning to end, pulsing along at furious rhythms to solid bass-lines and thrashing guitars. Dave Verellen of Botch fame has only improved as a vocalist over the years, with his style now resembling more of a deep, sludgy roar than the abrasive shouts he used to wield, complimenting Narrows thick tone perfectly. Furthermore, Verellen’s lyrics are as damningly heavy as they were in his Botch days, as he laments over “the end” in monstrous tones at the end of “Ride the Lion” and tells us “you have the right to die”. Dissonant guitar-work is used to great effect here as chaotic, reverberating guitars are used to break up the dense nature of the riffs to provide an interesting texture.
Retox on the other hand has a wildly different approach. The aforementioned “This Should Hurt a Little Bit” flies by in under 2 minutes, at such speed and flippancy that it comes as a bit of a shock after Narrows straightforward but hard-hitting approach. Justin Pearson plays the word association game, as he squeals out lyrics in flamboyant fashion reminiscent of early Blood Brothers such as “who needs a virus? Or missile crisis? Fill out plus sizes and *** reverse niceness”. However where Retox really shine is on the closing a track, a cover of The Cure’s “Fascination Street” that replaces all the melancholy bitterness and anguish of the original with cold hearted purpose and aggression. Retox’s version is faster, darker, and Justin Pearson’s rendition of the lyrics feels somewhat loyal to the original in that it’s heartfelt and natural. If anything one issue here is that Pearson’s yelping is somewhat monotonous and one sided. But still, the cover is an excellent way to see the EP off as the lyrics to “Fascination Street” fade out slowly, ending the EP as purposefully as Narrows kicked it off.