Only Self by Jesus Piece

With all the world a - travelin’ we’ve seemingly been doing via reviews here in the DCL Obituaries, it is only fitting that we bring things full circle, back to our home state, with Philly’s own Jesus Piece. Not to be confuzzed with the Game record of the same name, although a collaboration would certainly not be something to be upset about, Only Self is Jesus Piece’s absolutely crushing debut LP via Southern Lord Recordings. And, to keep the gangster rap thread running, it AIN’T nothing to fuck with. Like a grave, let’s dig in…

    Fist off, I can’t help but be intrigued by this current revival in 90’s industrial style music and imagery within the current hardcore/metal scene. Let me stop myself right there before you get this record confused with Ministry - it is not. Jesus Piece is very much a hardcore band. BUT, much like the culprits most likely responsible for the nostalgia - ridden industrial elements within hardcore, (Pittsburgh proud) Code Orange, they very much implore the Nine Inch Nails - esque album art and SOME 90’s metal influence in the music. Now, I am no huge fan of the pure hardcore/slam/mosh/grind scene, admittedly. While I definitely find myself attracted to it and enjoy it, I definitely do not go as deep. That’s what she said. There are bands within the genre and current scene that I think are absolutely wonderfully brutal and totally enjoyable to see perform and listen to (seeing Code Orange this year was undoubtedly my favorite club show I’ve been to in the last three), and others (most) I just think are, well, alright. On the other hand, I LOVE ME some 90’s industrial shit, and I always have. Therefore, on one hand, I think they should leave it alone. Don’t tamper with it. Let it exist where it should exist - in a dusty old CD shelf in the 90’s only to be broken out for some serious candle lit gothic jam sessions. But on the other hand, I see these are beautifully passionate, pissed off, and talented as all fuck young musicians that are quite determined to break the rules and most likely grew up listening to these records much like myself; and will carve their own path while letting their influences shine within their blood-drenched hardcore scene and not give a good shit how myself or anyone else feels about it. And I like that very much. Fight the power.

    Once again, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. Most of these bands are 90’s industrial in imagery and old cut-offs they wear on stage while just hinting at it in their music. Jesus Piece is definitely a solid balance of this but their heart is undoubtedly rooted in hardcore. This powerhouse of a record opens with some droning electronic elements, only to be crushed by a purely razor sharp, metallic, punching sounds created by relentless pounding (also what she said) of all instruments. From there, it’s fire on all cylinders from start to finish and Jesus Piece takes the wheel - so watch the fuck out. These are fully hardcore, fast-paced, but thankfully breakdown-focused tunes with a HINT of industrial metal. There are definitely some atmospheric nods. The sound mixing and production quality is there. The pure tone of these songs have an industrial edge and they use it to their advantage to highlight their instrumentation and brutality (the perfect example being the opening bass-heavy minute of Punish); but to classify them as industrial metal is more of a stretch than Metallica calling their last record good. Their industrial elements create an intriguing atmosphere and add an element of depth, danger, and dynamic range that simply wouldn’t be there otherwise. But, importantly, they don’t over do it. As much as I hate comparing bands to others like I already have, but I can’t help the Code Orange comparison. They do the 90’s metal thing way more than Jesus Piece, the average listener wouldn’t even pick up on it. 

    They slow it down for the ladies a little bit on tracks like In the Silence, which is an atmospheric droning tune without any help from their viscous singer Aaron Heard, as he just rips it up the entire time. His voice is very intriguing and refreshing for a new metal band as he is constantly tampering with his pitch, screams, and growls, as he fires through the pissed-off lyrics. Definitely a positive aspect of the industrial influence is the heavy bass that is completely evident and evil sounding through the entire record, adding that extra dimension of thick, heavy death to the songs; and playing off of the devastation created by the drums (seriously, this drum sound could be put on any extreme metal record), it kills. The guitars are trading off chugging breakdown heavy riffs with pinch harmonic fills and sharp licks that only serve either hurt, engerize, confuse, or fuck up the listener.  And this is music that definitely sounds like it wants to fuck you up. The pure sound and vibe created by this record is nothing short of astounding and beautifully chaotic, proving the can not only play the hell out of their instruments, but the are musically in tune (no pun intended) in the studio, too. Jesus Piece’s individual members may go against the grain with their hardcore experimentation, but they function together like a ruthless army. Staying true to their hardcore roots in attitude, style, and song length (with the longest song being 4:20.. hah) Jesus Piece is fast, menacing, and to the goddamn point. The only time the venture from the path is on the final two tracks, aptly titled I & II. They are both instrumental pieces that send the album out soaring with a giant middle finger of cutting again the grain. What more of a rebellious way to end a to the point and coming for your life hardcore record? Two ambitious and experimental instrumental tracks. I fucking dig it. 

    I don’t know whats in the water in Pennsylvania, but it obviously ain’t good. OR.. its really good, depending on your opinion of hardcore music sounding like its created by radioactive mutants that will die before conforming to traditional rules of music and probably society. Jesus Piece have created a hardcore record that creates a headspace so unique to itself that it just begs to be listened to. As I said, I am far from the definitive voice on hardcore, being only dipping my toes in the razor-invested waters very casually. But, as a 90’s goth kid at heart, and huge old-school death metal fan, this appealed to me more than any other hardcore release I’ve just about ever heard.They nailed it. No Jesus pun intended, I swear. 

Rating: 4.5/5

Gym Rating: 5/5

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