The Blood Brothers
March On Electric Children
Three One G
or a genre that is considered by many of its participants to be an open forum, there are a lot of rules surrounding hardcore. Your band can become popular – but only among hardcore kids. Almost any exposure on MTV or the like ensures malevolent cries of “SELLOUT!” You often can’t make your music too experimental or “different” because then the hardcore community at large may not consider you “hardcore” enough. Then there’s the fear of sex. Whereas other genres are filled to the brim with songs about the subject, you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere close to half as many hardcore songs about those three letters. (Let’s blame it, like we blame everything wrong with hardcore, on the straight-edge movement and move on.) The most disturbing rule however is, as usual, an unwritten rule.
The unwritten rule I speak of is this: for every good hardcore band, there must be at least ten bad ones. Think about it. For every band like Converge, there are ten more like Hatebreed, Poison The Well or Buried Alive. Maybe the reason hardcore has never caught the eye of the mainstream is not due to the extreme nature of the music, but rather the sheer lack of talent coming from the genre at any given time. Yeah, Hatebreed is on a major label right now, but how long do you think they’ll last in that setting?
Enter The Blood Brothers. With March On Electric Children, this band looks to expand on their fairly straightforward Antioch Arrow-esque sound and simultaneously break every rule in the hardcore book. The album is a chaotic romp through nine songs centered on sex, death, and youth. Yes, I said sex. There goes one rule. They’re working with Ross Robinson, a man better known for his Korn and Slipknot associations than his hardcore expertise, on their next album. That kills the anti-popularity rule. Then there’s the all-important choice of influences. Whereas most modern hardcore bands are content with laughably bad Slayer impersonations, The Blood Brothers take cues from the sounds early-90’s San Diego scene and whirl them up into an obliterating tornado, ready to destroy all in its path.
March On Electric Children starts off normally enough. “Birth Skin/Death Leather” features a pretty standard Swing Kids-influenced combination of raging, fuzzed-out guitar, blazing drum beats and screaming that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on the Brothers’ last album, This Adultery Is Ripe. Before the listener is given enough time to recover from the first song, “Meet Me At The Waterfront After The Social” charges in at light speed while adding Antioch Arrow vocal stylings, Sonic Youth influence and more discord. And then there’s the lyrics: “And that phosphorescent laugh dripped from your lips...they said ‘oh teen ruby fiend, open those thighs, show us the urchin inside!’” In the hands of The Blood Brothers, hardcore is anything but sexless and anything but safe.
For most bands, it’s impossible to hold up this kind of intensity for an entire album, but The Blood Brothers pull it off easily. “New York Slave” and “Mr. Electric Ocean” rock out like Drive Like Jehu on speed. “Kiss Of The Octopus” throws low-fi electronics in the mix amidst chants of “Do you want to live forever, baby? Suck the youth stick forever baby?” and “Nail your crotch to the hive of pleasure!” “Siamese Gun”, the strongest track on the album, staccatos into and out of a guitar-led dual-vocal screamfest while simulating a courtroom that is completely out of order (pardon the pun). All of this may be lacking in subtlety, but that’s the beauty of March On Electric Children. The Blood Brothers celebrate excess, both sonically and thematically. When you hear is album, you know that only The Blood Brothers are capable of creating it.
The album’s vocals-and-piano closer, “American Vultures” cements the fact that The Blood Brothers aren’t your run-on-the-mill hardcore band (as if you needed any more proof by now). The song features both vocalists singing(!) over an almost ragtime-like piano line. The track completes the sex-youth-death circle with the declaration, “We’re married to the vultures, baby!” In the 25 minutes of March On Electric Children, The Blood Brothers cover more ground than many bands do in their entire careers.
Now don’t get me wrong. Of course this album isn’t for everyone, hardcore kids and non-hardcore kids alike. If you don’t like – scratch that – if you don’t love screaming vocals, stay far away from this. If you don’t like imperfect production/mixing, stay away from this, as the guitars and vocals often dominate everything. If you don’t like music that completely lacks in subtlety, stay far away from this. If you don’t like hardcore that is the least bit adventurous or breaks the standard mold – hardcore that actually deserves its genre name, please stay very far away from this.
And while you’re at it, say goodbye to the rules of hardcore.
Reviewed by: Nnamdi Ezeife
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01