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Jesus Piece - Only Self Music Album Reviews

The full-length debut from the Philadelphia metalcore band folds in industrial and ambient textures into a brutal sound that’s still, thankfully, based around big, slamming breakdowns.

Jesus Piece rage at the nexus of hardcore, death metal, industrial, and ’90s metalcore. They’re part of a new metalcore movement that proves that experimentation and succinct, clobbering riffs can not only coexist, but make for natural partners. On their first full-length, Only Self, they make the case that such should be the new tradition.

Self bolsters the industrial elements that Jesus Piece toyed around with on a 2016 demo and a 2017 split with Florida hardcore band Malice at the Palace. While they are still based around big, slamming beatdowns, the textures are more worked in and they don’t just act as segues. Vocalist Aaron Heard and guitarist John DiStefano are also in Philly’s Hell to Pay, who take similar influences in a more noise-grind direction—it’s a natural progression for them. The rapid-fire bass intro to “Punish” is one of the most intense moments on the album, a fusing of industrial metal’s pulverizing coldness with hardcore’s brisk energy. “Punish” maintains that fury when Jesus Piece switch back, a testament to how, in their short existence and even quicker shift in sound, they can still get all sorts of windmill kicks going. Opener “Lucid” and “Curse of the Serpent” don’t bask in the band’s new direction, and they don’t need to: they’re chunky death metal bursts set to bouncy hardcore tempos—as good of a foundation as any.

“In the Silence” switches between shimmering, submerged cleans and the band’s crushing breakdowns and Heard’s yells take on an abyss-staring personality when confronted by these more placid moments. More than a simple contrast between volumes, the ambient base knocks the metal out of its grounding, lending to an unease that lingers when the guitars roar back in. It has the same vibe as Chicago hardcore band Harm’s Way’s “Temptation” from earlier this year, which also contrasted droney textures with aggressive hardcore. Like Harm’s Way, Jesus Piece see industrial’s fraught marriage with metal in the ’90s as ripe for reinterpretation, giving it new life through hardcore’s immediacy. “Silence” solves the conundrum of being split between wanting to listen to Eno or Hatebreed.

They expand on the template further and chop it in half on the last two tracks, “I” and “II.” “I” is all free, gorgeous noise with soft cymbals distorted into lush puddles, while “II” brings back crunching guitar but at slower paces and a more layered feel, like Jesu stuck in purgatory. At first, it feels anticlimactic to end a metalcore record on a hanging note, no last bash to re-energize and go out in a circle pit of glory. Jesus Piece are not here for the meathead-aversion to change, even if they do enjoy a lizard-brain riff.

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