Like many of you, I was shaken to my very core by AMG Himself‘s recent diatribe about subgenres. Fittingly enough, the very next album I’m handed to review is by a band that has blurred the lines of “metal” and “hardcore” for several years, confounding fans on both sides of the fence. As some of our longtime readers may have noticed, I really enjoy when bands do things that upset or confuse people, especially if it happens to result in interesting music. Enter Twitching Tongues and their fantastically-titled Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred.
Formed in L.A. by brothers Colin and Taylor Young (vocals and guitar, respectively), the Tongues define themselves as a hardcore band. And while they certainly embody that scene’s aesthetic (specifically the early ’90s NYHC variety), their music itself seems mostly influenced by metal bands. Their debt to Roadrunner Records’ early years is obvious, and they’ve recorded covers of Type O Negative, Celtic Frost, and motherfucking Candlemass over the years. So then, does that make this metalcore? That tag doesn’t feel right either, as Twitching Tongues don’t do the big choruses and melodrama associated with that genre — or more accurately, they do them differently.
Gaining Purpose certainly hits the ground running. Opener “AWOL (State Of The Nation)” is a mini-epic, leading off with a clean guitar intro straight out of 1987 before plowing into a variety of riffs and tempos. Elsewhere, tracks like “Harakiri,” “The Sound Of Pain” and the title track explore the band’s approach to the heavier material, which seems to crossbreed World Demise-era Obituary with Merauder (and maybe a little bit of Tragedy). Taylor Young and co-guitarist Sean Martin (ex-Hatebreed) deliver riff after riff with maximum precision and minimal flash.
Of course, every rocker has a sensitive side. Behold “Kill For You,” which is a Danzig-style power ballad on steroids, with some over-the-top vocal drama from Colin Young. Boundaries get pushed even further on “Long Gone,” a delicate tune built on a foundation of piano and string orchestration. Most of this would simply not work without Young’s distinctive vocals, which resemble a slightly drunk Keith Caputo (Life Of Agony) circa 1993 and/or Carnivore-era Peter Steele. Not surprisingly, his style works great over the ballad-type tracks, but his ability to work melodies into the band’s heavier tracks is both surprising and impressive. Also noteworthy is the album’s reverb-drenched production, which works wonders for both the vocals and drums.
Gaining Purpose‘s track listing alternates between the heavier songs and slow jams in the most jarring fashion possible, which certainly keeps the listener on edge. “Kill For You” leads right into the absurdly aggressive “T.F.R.,” an anti-Trump rant that destroys everything in sight for 2 minutes straight. Ditto for the fast and furious “The Sound of Pain,” which leads out of the aforementioned “Long Gone.” On the doomy “Forgive & Remember,” Young unleashes a barrage of suicide fantasies the likes of which have not been heard since River Runs Red, including “go(ing) swimming with a VCR.” I guess you can’t accuse them of not having a sense of humor.
Three albums in, Twitching Tongues have found a way to blend a wide range of influences into a deceptively cohesive sound, and as such, they are not an easy band to categorize. More importantly, they are damn good at whatever it is that you choose to call what it is that they do. The songs are well-constructed and memorable, and there’s a pretty high ratio of sick riffs. In a genre that has increasingly limited patience for melody, the band’s willingness to go there is both rare and commendable.