Sectarian Violence’s first full-length, a follow-up to last year’s self-titled EP, is not going to be something that appeals to everyone, not even within the confines of punk. But there are those for whom it will be welcome; those who wish New York ceased production of hardcore in 1986, those who bought the Boston Strangler album for something other than its resale value, and those who admire bands who avoid the path of least resistance.
Sectarian Violence – Upward Hostility (Grave Mistake Records)
Sectarian Violence’s first full-length, a follow-up to last year’s self-titled EP, is not going to be something that appeals to everyone, not even within the confines of punk. But there are those for whom it will be welcome; those who wish New York ceased production of hardcore in 1986, those who bought the Boston Strangler album for something other than its resale value, and those who admire bands who avoid the path of least resistance. Anybody who’s ever played in a band knows it can be hard enough getting all the members in the same room at the same time when everybody lives in the same city. Sectarian Violence is spread out between the States, Britain, and Sweden, but have still managed to release two records in two years. How’s that for creative drive?
Theirs is a decidedly essentialist approach to the music, one that strips hardcore to its hardest core and shuns pretty much every development the style has made in the past quarter-century. But unlike a great majority of the retro-minded bands that have emerged in the past few years, Sectarian Violence’s approach is very much a product of the present tense, with an explicitly hyper-critical political stance that is unfortunately more scarce than it should be in recent hardcore. Whether attacking privatized prisons, the demonization of immigrants and the poor, or Western foreign policy, there is a vicious intensity that only relents for the brief instrumental “No End To The Violence.” Though blunt, there is a panoramic view of the world’s injustices and degradations present, one that, though pointed in its critiques, never seems to take a narrow view.
Musically, the band is working in much the same vein as their previous EP, though with minute variations present. The recording seems slightly cleaner than in the past and, while these songs are hardly polished-sounding, there seems to be slightly more room present for each instrument to shine through. Similarly, the music is a tiny bit more mid-paced than on its predecessor – where the songs on the EP averaged approximately a minute in length, these are closer to ninety seconds. This may seem like a nitpicky distinction to make, but that slightly more measured pace accomplishes the same goals as the recording quality, a more expansive sonic environment that highlights each note as clearly as possible.
Anybody approaching Sectarian Violence’s output expecting a variation from some extremely tried and occasionally true formulas will likely be disappointed. But so will anybody who would come to their music expecting the sort of self-involved, lowest common denominator material that has passed for hardcore for too long. Much as hardcore needs innovators, it also needs bands like this to hold down its barest essence, making sure that everything that defined the style from the start can survive in capable and informed hands.