Review Summary: Far more than just a backing track for lugheads to swing their arms and kick their legs to.
The path hardcore has taken in the last 10 years or so has not been an easy ride. The anti-establishment, DIY ethic of so many well known acts from the 80's/ 90's was very much a product of its time- even though now, this stance would be perhaps more relevant than ever before. Hardcore modernized itself, upped the production values, and found many of its' hallmarks being adopted by offshoot genres such as deathcore and metalcore- the rest bled into beatdown; hardcore's spoilt, two-stepping brother. Much the same way punk rock bled over into the more commercially viable pop punk genre, hardcore needed to either reinvent itself, or wallow and ultimately completely disappear. Enter Brutality Will Prevail- a Welsh hardcore band more than willing to hoist the flag for the the flailing spirit of hardcore. This, the band's second full-length release, demonstrates so much verve and depth during it's runtime it is certainly not an understatement to say the band had reinvented hardcore as we know it. Equal parts beatdown, sludge metal, ambient rock and the band's personal strain of groovy hardcore, Root Of All Evil is a criminally underrated landmark release within the genre's modern iteration.
The unapologetically dark theming found on the album creates an immediately sombre and murky atmosphere- the decidedly minimalist artwork painting a hideously grim portrait of everyday life. Traditional hardcore punk was always about the underdog voice of dissatisfaction with the way things are, and it is clear that this ethic is still live and kicking on this release. The Root Of All Evil (for readers who aren't aware or don't have their King James handy) alludes to the pursuit of money- and the almost iconoclastic image of a street beggar inches away from an ATM machine, surrounded by an ugly grey concrete structure, may prove much to real a tableau for those who live in a big city. In many ways, this is the perfect photo to represent the album, as it is an ugly, unpleasant soundscape from start to finish, in all the ways hardcore should be. Second track 'Illusion' utilizes pitch-bent strums to accentuate the build up of the crushing guitars and plodding drums, almost creating the perfect soundtrack seen on the album's cover. The use of this slow-build style of musicality is pervasive on the release, guitars forming an almost drone-like hum as tracks build to a vicious climax. This is a level of investment in theme seldom seen on the modern hardcore scene.
Tracks such as 'Lost & Alone', 'Early Grave' and 'Reprisal' exhibit more urgency, but still hold true to a decidedly sludge-like vibe. The beauty of this, perhaps evidenced best by the breakdown at the midpoint of 'Lost & Alone', is that the power of the breakdown lingers in a far greater way than other tracks of the same ilk. The power of a breakdown can be likened to a sucker punch- it stings, maybe even knocks you down, but the once it's happened, it's over. The sludge style on Root Of All Evil gives the release a haunting, brooding ambience that functions on one level as pure noise, and on quite another as a musical excursion. The introduction bass on 'Life', for instance, is distorted so heavily and so devoid of melody that the album works perfectly well without it- yet, it is atmospheric; a harbinger of the track's oncoming assault, creating the aura needed to warn the listener to prepare, because the sonic reprieve will not last forever. The crowd-chants on this track also hark back to classic hardcore, a welcome divergence from the new style they are attempting to craft. 'Rot Away' strays even further from the usual tack of hardcore, starting as a considered, slow composition that manages to be melodic yet still unsettling. The whirlwind groove the track devolves into is hard-hitting and perfectly judged, yet the track keeps the 'hardcore' vibe truly in evidence through the pacing, even though the typical stylistics are somewhat removed.
In many respects, Root Of All Evil is a straight-up hardcore release. It emphasizes grooves over melodies, features heavily downtuned, plodding instrumentals and has plenty of vicious breakdowns. Yet, BWP's willingness to venture off the beaten path and form a borderline sublime amalgamation of so many avenues in rock and punk is a truly admirable feat. It could be argued that the ambient elements are unnecessary additions and are only present to diversify the content a little, but these aspects are so in-keeping with the grimy tone and themes at play here, that they are undeniably fitting and creative choices. Although the band has since moved onto more generic metalcore pastures, this release remains legitimately powerful; angry, intense but with genuine meaning and heart behind it. It has a statement to make and a unique way to say it, and in the realm of modern hardcore, this is a real treat.