Let’s face it: at this point in the game the idea of a blind buy is nearly ancient history. You can instantly pull up a record on Youtube, Spotify or whatever bullshit is sucking your data plan dry. Unless, however, you’re me and are both stubbornly adherent to old habits and your phone is a brick that lights up with numbers (mostly bill collectors).
I always thought the cover of Withdrawal’s Faith, Flesh and Blood was interesting for what I assumed was a hardcore record, so I ordered it for the record store I worked at but until A389 had a sale last year, I never tried to listen to it. I instantly knew this was a mistake. This EP was one of the most memorable hardcore records I’d heard in years, both ferocious but also the right amount of introspection.
Withdrawal can be put under various genre tags by various boring people but how I would describe it would be truly negative hardcore, reminding me of some of my other favorites like The Banner and (the infamous) Gehenna.
Vocalist Adam Dyson explains “People can call us a metal band, or metalcore band or holy terror or whatever... I consider us a hardcore band. I mean, we have tambourine and synthesizer on the LP, and my brother is more likely get influence from a Geordie Walker or Andy LaRocque guitar riff than standard HC fare these days but we'll always bring those influences down into the hardcore gutters. I think hardcore gets a bad reputation for being dumb, mostly from pencil neck geeks who want to jerk off to any sort of shoegaze-come-lately nonsense. I think hardcore is consciously aggressive which can easily be misconstrued by a twerp as being dumb.” Admittedly, that preconception is what kept me from digging into hardcore as a genre for years until Integrity changed my mind and opened the floodgates.
Withdrawal aren’t a new band; they’ve been kicking around for years now, mostly releasing EPs and a split with Young And In The Way. This November sees them finally releasing a full length record, Never, which they’ve been teasing audiences with song premieres since early July.
Today we at Decibel are proud to debut the final track before the record is released. Titled “From Stone To Air; From Bone To Air,” Dyson explains “It's about when you try and help people and they don't want to help themselves. Like when you offer advice to someone who doesn't take it to the point of ad nauseum. Maybe even trying to defend them. Eventually, you just have to accept it and let them go and fuck their lives up even if it hurts you to watch. That's hard to do and I struggle with that still. I think most people are afraid of that. You can't control other people.”
This track and much of what I’ve had the chance to hear of the new record blends Withdrawal’s dark hardcore with a lot of post punk and goth influences. Think Killing Joke, and not someone in a witch hat dancing in a room where the fog machine is stuck on “asphyxiate.”
I asked Dyson why the album took so much longer than originally planned and a bit about its themes and construction. He said, “I don't really have one concrete reason. It just seemed like every possible variable to slow down a record coming out made its way into the equation. Add in a bit of writer's block, second guessing what we had written... We had scrapped probably 10 full songs by the time we were done recording. To make things worse, there were some unlicensed samples we had to figure out too. All this, and then you can add a million beers and a metric ton of drugs. There's your 5 years flushed down the fucking drain. Frustrating to say the least.”
He continues “Going into this LP, we didn't want to cut any corners and we wanted to push ourselves creatively. I think the record wouldn't be fulfilling to listen to if we didn't challenge ourselves with it. We sequenced it where you could finish either side of the record and be left off with a different emotional feeling, whether you flip over the record or not, there's a feeling of conclusion to each side. Everything second on the record was deliberate, even the spaces between songs. We even wrote song tempos based on recurring numbers that came to each member members in different dreams. Our bass player has been big on sensory deprivation tanks and while I can't say for certain if there was a correlation, since he started doing it he was always coming up with interesting ideas. All these things we did because we knew it was something outside of the ordinary for us or hardcore in general. I think when bands pump out microwaved riffs and front load a record with the best stuff and leave the half-assed stuff to the end... that's insulting to me as a listener. We made sure not to do that. Thematically, it's just the things I over think about. Revenge, Sex, Gluttony, Drugs. A little something for everyone. I wouldn't write when I had to force it, lyrically at times it felt like I stood outside my body and watched myself write.”
Dyson obviously has put a lot more emotional thought into this than the stereotype that hardcore is mostly shirtless guys beating the shit out of each other in a foul smelling circle. I’m always curious, as a musician and also as a fan, what bands want their listener to get out of records like this that are so obviously personal.
“I just want them to feel. Ultimately it's up to them what they get from it. Maybe they'll identify with the themes on it, or maybe it'll awaken something in them they didn't know was there, or maybe they'll strongly disagree with the more perverse themes on there. There's one song on there, where like I said previously, the words came pouring out of me and after I had written it, I analyzed what came out and it just struck me that the song was about a particular partner I had been sleeping with. Even though the relationship was basically all physical there was that strange peace after dirty fucking where you just kind of lay there, hating yourself, but being satisfied with that kind of night. I would never write a song that vulnerable before this LP. And I feel uncomfortable explaining that, and hopefully people will be uncomfortable reading that, or listening to it. Something. As long as they feel something after listening to it, I'm satisfied. “
As our conversation comes to a close I make the joke Dyson is sure to get sick of once the press cycle truly gets going for the LP, the inevitable question of whether or not it will be another decade before the next record.
“I honestly don't think the world is going to be around long enough for us to put out another LP.”
And this is the perfect answer to encapsulate what will be one of the best hardcore records of 2016.
Withdrawal’s Never will be released on November 4 on Escapist Records. You can preorder the record here.