Rot Away – Nothing is Good Review

It’s not controversial to say I miss shows. And while it seems there was a brief window where venues were opening back up, it looks like the next opportunity to catch an honest-to-god show won’t be until 2036, when each ticket comes with a complimentary hazmat suit. One thing that has increased my yearning for concerts over the past year and a half isn’t just the pandemic-induced down-tuned drought; it’s also reviewing bands that I know would be an absolute blast to catch live. Even if the score wasn’t particularly high, I can concede just how fun it would be to see that same band tear things up in person. It’s the distant memory fist pumping and horn throwing that has further fueled my anticipation every time I hear an album I know I’d enjoy experiencing in person. Such is the case with Nothing is Good, the first album from Denmark-based metallic hardcore heathens Rot Away. With an album title fit for the times and plenty of cathartic shouts and barbaric breakdowns, will this get you pumped for the almighty return to pits o’ mosh and walls o’ death? 

I should say so, and it’s readily apparent from the very first crushing riff in blink-and-you-miss-it opener “Rot Away.” While I wouldn’t identify hardcore as one of my favorite sub-genres, Rot Away’s latest has me at least reconsidering my musical priorities. In the accompanying promo material, they name check Power Trip as an influence (as any thrash-adjacent band worth their salt should), but I also hear a hefty dose of Enforced and a smidgen of Allfather. Of course, Rot Away aren’t reinventing the hardcore wheel here, so I’m sure there are any number of thrashtastic, punk-inspired bands that Nothing is Good may remind you of. Fortunately, just because these defiant Danes aren’t revolutionary doesn’t mean they aren’t still damn good at what they do. And this is where Rot Away truly succeed: they’re strong in the way of the riff, and they’ve honed their craft to a razor-sharp edge; the kind you might find protruding from your clavicle if you dared look at it sideways in a darkened alley.

As I mentioned previously, Nothing is Good opens with absolute banger “Rot Away,” a 1 minute 33 second chug fest that sets the stage for the enjoyable riffage you’ll find on the remaining 9 tracks. It makes sense that Rot Away have embraced the “hardcore” genre tag on Bandcamp, as the quartet supply plenty of chunky, fist-pumping breakdowns, short run times, brutish lyrics, and the kind of emotive, screamed vocals that exude equal parts disgust and defiance. Mid-album ripper “No Apology” perhaps best embodies the hardcore hedonism on Nothing Is Good. And yet Rot Away don’t skimp on the thrash, with tracks like “Bad Way” and “Hang Low” offering up thrashy, 80s-inspired intros and segments, with “Hang Low” and “No Apology” also providing memorable, gang-chanted choruses. To top it all off, back-end tune “Graves” and album closer “Prøv Igen” keep things interesting by introducing slower, more plaintive passages you wouldn’t immediately associate with hardcore.

All of this amounts to a solid metallic hardcore album that wraps things up in a tight 10 tracks, running just over 24 minutes. The short runtime and accessible sound makes Nothing is Good a fun listen. But after repeated spins, the album’s lean nature, brief songs, and general flow make it feel more like a single piece as opposed to individualized tracks. Without that context going in, it can make honing in on specific songs difficult. Additionally, while it’s clear these pro-riff, anti-shirt gents have got their hardcore game down pat, I would have liked to hear a bit more exploration. The handful of slower, mid-paced moments hint at a willingness to expand their sound, and I wish Rot Away had taken greater advantage of that opening.

I stand by my statement that more than most albums I’ve reviewed this year, Rot Away’s latest has me increasingly eager for live music’s triumphant return. The energy, brutality and unadulterated riffage on display had me ready to once again stand in a hot, overcrowded venue with battle-jacketed brutes, belting out chorus after rousing chorus in unison amidst a sea of back-lit hands throwing up the almighty horns. As you practice crossing your arms in the back of the room with the rest of us geriatrics, give Nothing is Good a listen in malicious anticipation.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Last Mile Records
Releases Worldwide: August 13th, 2021

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