What’s one to do when one’s beloved powerviolence quartet, hyped for years by fans and the press, decides to pull a Seinfeld and call it quits while still on top? If your name is John Hoffman and that band is Weekend Nachos, you go solo. Luckily for this review, such a situation has come to be, and Cold Hard Concrete is the outcome; an album which is impossible to mistake for anything other than what it is — a bellicose overture to pits and profanity worthy of its creator’s previous work. A gritty, pissed-off example of hardcore at its most lug-headedly reductionist. Oh, and it’s heavy, too.
With Hoffmann handling all duties save six-string, it’s not surprising that Ledge sounds very much like a slower version of Weekend Nachos, thriving on volume and anger rather than finesse or introspection. This isn’t the kind of music that needs to be analyzed or thought about to appreciate. It merely needs to be heard, in all of its stomping simplicity. Cold Hard Concrete scratches the hardcore itch, and songs like “Stalk Your Enemies” make for great pit fodder and will leave you appropriately disheveled when they’ve lumbered past. Its strength resides in your willingness to buy into its anger — but at times it can be a tough sell.
Cold Hard Concrete‘s main failing is just how pit-ready the whole affair turned out. Hoffman stuffed it full of heavy, belligerent mosh riffs; so full, in fact, that there’s not much else to it. Whether because of inexperience or aesthetic choice, the instrumental performances are workmanlike jabs at underwritten parts. Most of the songs here live and die by one slow breakdown riff, and while that approach works well in small doses — “Through Your Skull” kicks things off well enough — it’s not a formula that sustains my interest for a full album. Sure, it’s nice to hear doomy metallic hardcore, and my first few spins with the album gave me plenty, but after a while, Cold Hard Concrete begins to feel pretty one-note, and it can’t sustain that note as long as it needs to.
Hoffman’s vocal delivery does contribute somewhat to this feeling, but it’s also a bit of a saving grace for Cold Hard Concrete. The man constantly sounds like he’s going to paint the room red, Phrynosoma-style, and his clenched yells are a joy to pantomime. “Fuck Yourself” is hilariously entertaining, and I’m always happy to listen to it with a smirk as Hoffman levels profanity at me like few others can. But when he backs out for breakdowns, as in the middle of “Last Shred of Hope,” the music’s repetitive, simplistic writing really starts to wear on me. Sure, a few decent breakdown riffs crawl out of the speakers from time to time, but they come so slowly and so continuously that they’re robbed of impact. Most of the songs on Cold Hard Concrete clock in under four minutes, but nearly all of them go on too long.
All that adds up to an album that gets less fun with each spin. What started out enjoyable now seems drab, and the lack of variety across Cold Hard Concrete effectively kills it as an album. A few mosh-friendly riffs are bound to resurface in my head from time to time, but they’re perhaps best experienced divorced of their context, just tucked somewhere in my brain for quick entertainment when I’m stuck in the john or waiting at a bus stop. While it conjures memories of Nachos, this dish went stale far too fast to satisfy me.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Translation Loss Records/Hibernation Release
Releases Worldwide: August 25th, 2017