Up to bat this month: two unique displays of unrelenting riffage, both equal in their intensity; followed by a nefarious descent into the only John Carpenter Moshpit that you can still bust teeth inside.
Jesus Piece
Jesus Piece
… So Unknown
Century Media

As far as I’m concerned, …So Unknown essentially makes the rest of Jesus Piece’s recordings look like folly.

This is not to disrespect the previous efforts of these Philly locals. Only Self is an exceedingly heavy and hard-hitting introduction to what hardcore punk has become in recent years; additionally, their 2015 self-titled EP contains some of their most savage and raw aggression on tracks like “Oppressor” and “Conjure Life”, both of which are sure to trigger moshpit flashbacks in anyone that has attended a This Is Hard Core festival. Incredible releases.

But here, in 2023, Jesus Piece has truly come into its own.

…So Unknown constitutes five years of precise tuning on the part of Jesus Piece. I have been eagerly awaiting the release of their next album ever since I went tearing down some unholy backroad screaming “CURSE OF THE SERPENT, EVIL INCARNATE”. The band, from its early days, exhibited a penchant for sonic experimentation that had not yet been fully explored within the “hardcore mainstream,” and has continued to push boundaries within this realm whilst maintaining complete unbridled brutality.

I must say, though, that the charm of …So Unknown lies in its inherent timelessness. Allow me to explain…

This particular effort puts forth an irreproachably balanced texture of both old and new. There are plenty of twists and turns to captivate the contemporary Code Orange listener, enough sonic jests to keep the audience on their toes – yet Jesus Piece also hearkens back to times past. They embrace a certain 1990-Y2K aesthetic that seems to revive the Headbanger’s Ball from many moons ago… a look at their music videos will plainly display this, as their production for “Gates of Horn” bears a moderate resemblance to a certain Mudvayne video that received considerable air time on MTV.

…Once again, I loop back. Sometimes I get drawn into comparisons so deeply that it seems I’m accusing people of being derivative. I do not want to imply that any of the above constitutes unoriginality, simply a positive inspiration drawn from nostalgia. From the nu-metal-esque riffs to the deftly air-brushed cover, everything about this record screams revival.

Making the old new again.

Put briefly, the whole thing is laced with absolute blow-your-dome-in songs. The opening track “In Constraints” is a welcome relief from the long and drawn-out intros that so many bands seem to love. Just cut to the damn chase – I like it. “Fear of Failure” is a following act that dwarfs track one, however. The intro reminds me of their earlier “Conjure Life”, which is a welcome renewal. “FTBS” is an equally hard-hitting and brief highlight, carrying with it a very memorable slogan and some exceedingly catchy rhythms… I could go on.

In the spirit of the band itself, I will elaborate on the quality of the vinyl with brief and direct simplicity: it hits exactly how you want a hardcore album of this nature to hit. The production itself isn’t pristine, but pristine production would in turn misrepresent the intent of the record. Instead, Jesus Piece presents this:

  • The Low End Hits Hard.
  • The Guitars Act as Percussion, with the Appropriate Amount of Melody.
  • The Vocals Deliver Poignant Poetry but Also Camouflage as Instruments.
  • The Overall Production Echoes Hardcore Ancestors Whilst Maintaining a Modern Edge.
  • The record came as an enticingly transparent-glass copy: something that feels strangely at home with the whole aesthetic. The artwork combines a very neat piece of airbrushed artwork (that evokes considerable nostalgia) with a certain industrial-neo-tribal patterning – all of which is encompassed in an included booklet that delineates all lyrics and provides additional perspectives of the toiling angels that adorn the front. While I am usually skeptical of airbrushed art, this whole arrangement is at home on this album, along with all the other very eclectic choices. In short, the whole thing feels like a pinnacle of fierce independence: it isn’t perfect – but it’s exactly like it should be.

    Dedication to Flesh
    Rise Records

    Ask any old-school, long-haired metalhead about “deathcore kids” and they’re sure to give you a sideways glance, if not worse. See, when the old heads think of the bands that got popular on MySpace and all the kids with the swoopy haircuts plus all the other (somewhat unfounded) stereotyping that they attach to this genre label, they write the stuff off as “poser” material. Believe me; when all I listened to was Cannibal Corpse and At the Gates, I was brainwashed to think the same way.

    A great many bands, just as formidable as the classics, have come and gone and been proud to carve out deathcore’s space in metal; and just as many have been written off by the old heads as they listen to their Suffocation and their Morbid Angel.

    All these aforementioned “old” bands are all beyond reproach, of course – but give any old-school metalhead a Spite record and he might just start to come around. Such was the case with me – Spite was the first band that made me actually appreciate what deathcore could become. This particular Bay Area outfit has a tendency to produce incredibly hard-hitting death metal; however, they forego the wall-of-sound production and sweeping, noodling solos in favor of the punchy, crispy, and clear deathcore sound; and their riffs are a measure catchier than anything in the catalog of classic death metal. They are technically deathcore, but in my opinion, only just.

    Spite is no stranger to producing impressive albums at this point. They cut their teeth with their 2015 Self-Titled LP and then broke out with their sophomore effort Nothing is Beautiful (a record that would boast some of their most memorable tracks, such as “IED”, “Kill or Be Killed”, and “Drown Me”). After exhibiting a further degree of polish on The Root of All Evil, they then released this most recent effort onto the world – which is their most grotesque exhibition of brutality to date.

    Dedication to Flesh is best described, in my opinion, by its quiet moments – because there are so few. These sparse breaks from the absolute crushing malice of the record are used only to produce more trepidation in the listener, only to create more tension with a disturbing sample or a haunting noise track (“Sounds for the Descent”, or the rolling film at the beginning of “Some Things You Should Know…”).

    Everything else is pure hell.

    From start to finish, there is absolutely no reprieve or respite. This album is a veritable stacked lineup of unabashedly phenomenal songs. Spite’s riff writing is exceedingly chuggy, almost using guitars as percussion instruments – aside from a great many dynamic tricks that absolutely destroy any chance of monotony. My favorite example comes on the title track… after the first “WORD TO THE FAMOUS” has been shouted, the main riff commences, but it’s not the main riff itself that gets the blood flowing… it’s that four-stroke muted chug that twists the original riff around a little. That’s the charm – the little tricks that Spite plays on you. A measure more intelligent than your average deathcore band. For every riff, the band finds a way to create depth and layering as the individual instruments deviate from each other ever so slightly.

    When you’re at a red light and an oncoming automobile comes careening through a right-hand turn at close to 130 MPH, begins to roll, blows the turn out wide, tumbles through three lanes of traffic, and then plants itself inside the payment kiosk of a car wash – Spite is the music you will hear when those rolled down windows fly behind your idling Kia Soul. Something about these tunes encourages the listener to floor the gas. It’s almost metaphysical.

    In truth, there are no “weak” songs to be found here. There’s no real point in the album that lets down or disappoints… “Proper One” is a tune that’s sure to get the circle pit going – the rhythmic dog barks propelling the main riff toward absolution. “Lord of the Upside Down” is an intro that makes Spite’s presence felt, diving straight from a chordy refrain to an absolutely killer vocal climb, blasty riff… only to dump the listener right under the main hook phrase: “SUFFER FOR ETERNITY.”

    How else to proceed? Spite offers the most hard-hitting, no-bullshit collection of sounds to be labeled deathcore, and they do it all with a twisted smile on their face.

    Here’s the rub: my vinyl pressing is of slightly disappointing quality.

    This is my first title from Rise Records, and I’m unsure if other copies of the album also have this issue – but the record has some nasty distortion near the beginning. It makes “Lord of the Upside Down” difficult to enjoy… arguably one of the best tracks on the album. This did depress me a bit. The distortion issue seems to even out by the end of the track, and the rest of the record seems to progress fine, but it needs to be mentioned. Otherwise, the packaging is well decorated yet still simple, the lyrics are neatly printed on a slip sleeve for the vinyl itself… decent enough on all accounts.

    Ultimately, for such an incredible album, I wish I hit a better lottery number when it comes to pressing quality. I would like to think this is just a fluke, but first impressions are important.

    Portrayal of Guilt
    Portrayal of Guilt
    Christf***er (S/T)
    Run for Cover Records

    I think that Portrayal of Guilt is best described in their own words: “If John Carpenter listened to Converge.” Their music is a foreboding and ominous horror soundtrack taken to the extreme. It’s hard to lend words to this description, in truth – Portrayal is something that is best experienced. The vocals do not sound right; they sound like an imp crawling out of the depths of hell. The guitar track at times has incredible weight and volume, but then becomes twangy and thin like a sitar… the drummer possesses an extreme amount of skill; yet plays only on a stripped-down kit …an oxymoronic performance?

    I suppose that’s the only way to describe a band that fails description: a harsh marriage of polar opposites that somehow works.

    … and I don’t mean works in some demeaning, MacGyver, hodge-podge sense of the word – like a camp counselor that’s trying to console some kid who can’t exactly tie a bowline knot. “Oh, that one will work Jamie… not perfect, but she’ll hold!”


    Portrayal’s sound is the Thing That Should Not Be – if the Thing That Should Not Be broke out in the modeling industry and began adorning Victoria’s Secret billboards. Everything in your mind tells you that this thing is hideous, an abomination, it should be stomped out and discarded… but you can’t stop looking.

    There are plenty of bands that boast about being “satanic” or “hellish”, and just as many that go so far as to shock the audience that they basically abandon all principles of music. While many have thrived and forged careers off of these ideas (some of which actually combine these ideas with musical talent), Portrayal of Guilt completely sweeps the board in terms of producing horrifying music. How often can a band present you with a musical representation of a tunnel to hell, and then convince you to keep digging? S/T is as eclectic as it is straightforward, it’s as catchy as it is confusing, it’s as haunting as it is cathartic… again, the only appropriate description is an oxymoron.

    Play S/T over the P.A. at a haunted house – you’ll induce catatonic seizures in all guests and face a sweeping class action lawsuit.

    Give it to the disk jockey of a party populated with The Right Kind of People… you may have something very special on your hands. Whether that Special Thing was your exact intention is up for debate… but when the right people react the Right Way, sparks tend to fly very quickly.

    The album is punctuated by strong points, such as “Dirge” and “The Crucifixion” which both allow the clear hardcore influences to be heard, while still allowing some black-metalesque tastes to find a foothold – and then songs such as “Intro to S/T and “Bed of Ash” clearly indicate a harsh noise/industrial angle… again, more oxymoronic descriptions. The best way to legitimately experience Portrayal is to figure it out for yourself.

    As for the vinyl – the music is borne by a plain black disk that is void of nearly any defining features. The quality itself is nothing to write home about; but then again, who would want this type of album to sound crystal clear? I find the true genius of the packaging to be in the double-sleeve: the outer black jacket has the band’s logo and also a cutout that reveals the letters “S” and “T.” Removal of the black sleeve reveals the true name of the album, which was partially concealed due to censorship concerns. They still provide you with a very large poster for your trouble – bearing the decidedly offensive title in all its crass glory. An ingenious way to avoid censorship – trick people into thinking that your album is Self-Titled.

    To sum up: This Album is Like Being in Church, if Church was a Terrifying Existential Nightmare.