From the band name, you couldn’t be blamed if you expected this band to sound like a lot of the old-school revival hardcore bands who’ve been tapping into the Black Flag sound recently. Named after a 1982 compilation album of pre-Rollins recording sessions by Black Flag, Everything Went Black are nonetheless not dealing in the sound that bands like Total Abuse, Double Negative, and even original Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris’s new band OFF! have gotten such good results with over the past couple of years.
Everything Went Black – Cycles Of Light (Prosthetic Records)
From the band name, you couldn’t be blamed if you expected this band to sound like a lot of the old-school revival hardcore bands who’ve been tapping into the Black Flag sound recently. Named after a 1982 compilation album of pre-Rollins recording sessions by Black Flag, Everything Went Black are nonetheless not dealing in the sound that bands like Total Abuse, Double Negative, and even original Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris’s new band OFF! have gotten such good results with over the past couple of years. Instead, on their first full-length, this St. Louis-based heavy hardcore band explore territory that will be very familiar to fans of hardcore bands like The Hope Conspiracy, Trap Them, and Unbroken, but also to fans of metal bands like Entombed and At The Gates. They’re willing to pick up the pace, and definitely do so at least occasionally on songs like “Amongst Wolves” and “Gods Of Atlantis.” However, they both concentrate on and excel at midtempo riffing, which makes up the backbone of their sound.
In constructing their songs this way, Everything Went Black have definitely established a challenge for themselves; it’s much harder to create and maintain intensity through midtempo speed. Slow riffs can be heavy, crushing monsters, and fast riffs are easy to turn into ferocious buzzsaws of pure adrenaline. However, midtempo riffs, in the hands of less capable bands, can easily become sludgy mediocre filler that’s just there to occupy the band’s time while they wait for the next breakdown to come in. There are plenty of bands scattered around the United States metalcore scene, who’ve spent years playing opening slots when nationally-popular bands come through their town, who use midtempo riffs in exactly this way, and that fact is also the main reason why you’ve never heard of any of those bands (except maybe the ones from your town, and you probably roll your eyes when you hear that they’re playing yet another show you want to go to. Just because the bass player is a friend of yours is no reason to pretend you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about). It’s a rare band who are able to use the midtempo hardcore sound as a vehicle to lodge their songs in a listener’s brain, to catch someone’s attention on first listen and keep it throughout the running time of an album. Everything Went Black are that rare band, though, and they deserve a lot of credit for it.
Perhaps the most interesting songs here are the longest ones; out of the nine songs on Cycles Of Light, two, “Parades” and “Kingdoms,” each stretch past the five-minute mark. “Kingdoms” features a quiet midsong buildup that begins with a darkly melodic undistorted guitar arpeggio and eventually arrives at a pounding, dramatic climax that is more likely to provide mid-set catharsis than any sort of moshpit call. “Parades,” on the other hand, uses a similar dramatic climax to lead slowly into an orchestral coda that makes a good dividing line between the first and second halves of this LP. It’s clearly the presence of moments like these on Cycles Of Light that leads Everything Went Black to describe themselves as “blackened hardcore” on their facebook page. However, they seem less to me like a hardcore band that features a black metal influence than a modern hardcore band who know how to incorporate the raw power of old-school punk and the gritty energy of metal into a songwriting formula that is not much different on a fundamental level from what a good many hardcore bands were doing 15 or 20 years ago.
But if that sounds like a knock on Everything Went Black, let me assure you that it’s not. Not every band needs to reinvent the wheel to make a record that is worth your hard-earned cash. If a band can work within a musical style that’s been established for decades but still create a powerful album that stands out from the crowd, then at the end of the day it’s the standout nature of that album that should count. Cycles Of Light stands out as an excellent heavy hardcore album. You should get yourself a copy.