Review Summary: Billy the Kid comes home and strikes gold again.
If you’ve been following Mr. Rymer’s trajectory ever since he burst onto the world stage with The Dillinger Escape Plan, you would know that there’s much more up his sleeve than just the frenetic chaos of his DEP records. His work with NK and glassJAw prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Now, Billy returns to Long Island to unleash a brainchild all his own – Thoughtcrimes – with a new EP that already takes him outside his looming math-core shadow.
On these four tracks, Billy flexes not only his well-documented chops but also his talents as a songwriter with the latter running neck and neck with the former. The songs on Tap Night have an incredible breadth of dynamics and ideas many bands don’t find a way to even approach whether they be hardcore or otherwise. Right from the start for example, “Artificer,” has so much more than bone shattering riffs to give as its second half sees a total transformation in tone, instrumentation, and well, everything really. If you heard only minute three to the end, you wouldn’t know it was the same band from minute one. Make no mistake though, this is a hardcore band at its core, and if, “Soapbox Serman,” or, the beginning of “Artificer,” don’t have you putting holes in your walls, then call a doctor to check for a pulse.
Revisiting Rymer’s abilities on the kit though, Tap Night reads like a scrapbook of everywhere he’s been as a drummer. We have Dillinger and glassJAw on full display, but his times with END, No Machine, and NK also shine through just as brightly. As much as Thoughtcrimes is Billy’s project, the drums don’t take over the way they easily could. Instead, they are distinctly part of the greater musical tapestry and seek only to elevate the music to its maximum.
Switching gears, the guitars and bass on this EP are each well-oiled machines that bring Rymer’s visions to life in high definition. The riffs are airtight and completely ferocious, never getting stale and delivering one brick to the head after another. There’s even a wah pedal driven solo at the end of, “Punk Rock Guilt,” which unabashedly shreds and makes me want to drive a monster truck down the street. Conversely, “Lux and Row,” shows a completely different side to axes: one that is meditative, brooding, and beautiful, shimmering like dark crystals. The bass doesn’t have many standout moments on these songs; however, going back to, “Punk Rock Guilt,” the intro and its reprise around the 1:40 mark put all the thick grime on full display.
At the front of Tap Night is the elastic voice of Rick Pepa, and he leaves no note wasted here. He simultaneously calls to mind elements of Jason Aalon Butler, Greg Puciato, and Ryan Hunter all rolled into one. Fortunately though, he doesn’t drown in those comparisons at all, instead only using them as a springboard to launch himself above them. Rick undoubtedly has his own voice and is as diverse as the music he weaves in and out of. Feral, incensed, angelic, and ethereal are all descriptors not in short supply, and he proves he can command any role the music demands with equal deftness.
Tap Night is a project that has the potential to take Billy and company far into the next chapter should they so choose. These four songs cover so much ground so well that a follow-up release could go in an innumerable amount of directions. That might just be the most exciting thing about Thoughtcrimes. All of the elements are here, so let’s see what other riches are yet to be revealed.