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The best hardcore LP of the nineties? - 93%

robotiq, August 19th, 2020

Hardcore is not a type of music. It is a tapestry of interconnected micro-scenes, bound in a mishmash of conflicting, contradictory rules and ethics. Sometimes it encompasses a collective spirit, a vague notion of 'scene unity'. Elsewhere it espouses individualism and personal freedom. Does this make it any different to metal? Perhaps only in relation to my first sentence, because metal is a type of music. The two genres probably share more similarities than differences and have crossed over many times. One of my favourite metal/hardcore hybrids is Rorschach's "Protestant", a record that opened the floodgates for a new type of scratchy, angular, metallic hardcore that bloomed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Rorschach began as a dark, heavy hardcore band that sounded like a grittier version of early Prong. They evolved to become more abrasive and experimental over a couple of transitional seven-inches. Their second album "Protestant" marks the end of that journey. I started exploring hardcore a few years after this was released, through bands like Deadguy, Kiss it Goodbye and Converge. I liked these bands at the time because they were extreme and heavy enough but sounded different to any metal I had heard. Little did I know that "Protestant" was the common denominator for them all, and many more besides. I concluded that Rorschach rendered most imitators irrelevant, except for a handful of bands who pushed their sound even further (Acme, Carol, Union of Uranus, etc).

Albums like "Protestant" do not appear by accident. This is a product of extensive, varied influences. Rorschach were interested in progressive rock (covering King Crimson on a previous seven-inch). They drew inspiration from Die Kreuzen and presumably Voivod by extension. There are elements of dark, malevolent bands across the spectrum of angry, guitar-based music. I could cite Swans, Amebix, Negative Approach ("Evacuate"), The Melvins and Slayer for starters. There may also be comparisons with the first Nirvana album and even with extreme avant-garde jazz (such as Last Exit). Perhaps this is a stretch, but not by much. The music on "Protestant" is a collage of torsion and dissonance, with utter disdain for melody. No band imitating Rorschach could achieve this result without such varied influences. This record might sound superficially similar to many others, but this is ground zero.

Musically, Rorschach brought hardcore to breaking point. The Die Kreuzen and Voivod influences are taken to iconoclastic extremes (e.g., "Shanks"). Every riff is memorable, and the music is cohesive despite its angularity. Take a song like "Skin Culture" for example, there is a section of clean guitar in the middle that morphs into a nightmarish ooze, while a near-virtuoso bass wanders beneath. The drumming of Andrew Gormley is stunning, almost Lombardo-esque in places. He can bring the music to chaos with ease (e.g., "Drawn and Quartered"), he can play super-fast hardcore beats ("Raw Nerve"), he always sounds organic and inexorable. The guitarists fire shrapnel-shaped riffs over the top of the rhythm section, and Charles Maggio's shrieking takes it beyond the pale. Every element of this would soon become commonplace in hardcore.

This record is monolithic and brilliant. Each of the countless riff transitions means something. Each is an excuse for a violent, disquieting moment, best shown in the introspective and furious closer ("Ornaments"). "Protestant" is an album for anyone who dismisses hardcore as simplistic, limited, or predictable. I will never tire of this record. It will always throw me a new riff or idea that I have never noticed before. Rorschach are mandatory listening for adventurous metal fans, particularly those who gravitate towards weird, outsider bands (Demilich, Master's Hammer, Ved Buens Ende). If you only hear five hardcore records in your lifetime, make this one of them.

Protest the Heroes of the US Metal Underground - 92%

bayern, June 15th, 2017

I only found out that this band were listed here a few months back; which was a surprise at first having in mind that their first instalment was a psyched-out outburst of hardcore/punk with interesting dissonant Voivod-esque additives, making it sound like the dangerously mutated, schizoid “sibling” of “Dimension Hatross” at times, with echoes of the early works of the legends Die Kreuzen as well.

I believe the guys surprised themselves even with the album reviewed here. The hardcore/punk base is still evident, but it only serves as a base on which the band weave a complex, multi-layered tapestry with several influences coming on top of each other, most of the time to a pretty positive effect. Generally, this may be described as progressive thrashcore with post-thrash and doomy ingredients freely “floating” around. “Mandible” is already a most schizoid opener with creepy abrasive guitars boding the coming of the industrial metal wave which has started shaping gradually at the time; the apocalyptic hysterical vocals are the most unnerving accompaniment imaginable to this distressing musical cavalcade which becomes more quirky and abstract with time until the introduction of the intriguing melodic deviations in the second half. “In Ruins” brings things back to normal with raging, almost grinding, passages, but expect also jumpy doomisms ala Confessor and some absolutely outlandish melodic atonality. “Traditional” is spastic Voivod-ish hardcore with interesting dissonant moments and sudden turns to more violent bash the resultant amalgam receiving a weirder decoration on “Drawn & Quartered” which bashes with both more chaos and more style bordering on pure Slayer-esque thrash at some stage, not to mention the stylish technical chops and the doomy elegies that overtake the aether later.

“Shanks” is futuristic eccentricity with spacey dissonant escapades taking turns with more Confessor-esque stomps and more aggressive, semi-chaotic rifforamas. More eclecticism arrives with “Recurring Nightmare 105” which is jarring scratchy doomisms that may stretch the listener’s nerves, especially after “Blinders” offers pretty much the same kind of psychotic, dishevelled, schizoid entertainment. “Hemlock” reminds of Voivod again with more linear riff-formulas taking turns with wild restless leaps and bounds creating tense psychotic atmosphere. “Raw Nerve” is a leftover from the debut, hectic noisy hardcore with the most rending, overshouty vocal support imaginable; but “Skin Culture” is on the opposite pole with patient, gradually evolving rhythms with an oblivious, quasi-doomy vibe the obligatory hectic faster-paced deviation a rude awakening with a dissonant twist. “Cut the Wheel” offers a similar blend only that the speedy digression is pure unbridled grindcore with tons of bizarre riff applications breaking the stride; and “Ornaments” is a surprisingly downbeat closer notching up the good old doom as a finale without any more eclectic embellishments.

This would be a truly rewarding listening experience for seekers of the left-hand path in music although quite a few metal heads would dismiss it immediately due to its highly diverse character, not necessarily related to metal the whole time. The hardboiled hardcore fans would frown quite a bit as well since this amalgam doesn’t constantly rely on that genre’s stripped-down, no-bars-held approach; in fact, it quite often ignores it with complicated mazey riff-patterns where the presence of speed is only ephemeral and frequently non-existent. An experimental effort on all counts, it amazingly coincided with the arrival of other bizarre eye-openers like Carbonized’s “Disharmonization”, Buzzard’s “Churp”, O.L.D.’s “Hold on to Your Face”, Verwaint’s “And Now It Remains for Us to Explain”, and Kinsky’s “Copula Mundi”, all appeared within the span of one year. The spastic unheralded time and tempo changes witnessed here have had their influence on the future mathcore movement including on the pioneers Lethargy and Converge; and the heavy, distorted at times, guitar approach was fairly relevant to the aggro/groovy sounds that were tormenting the audience at the time.

Only that Rorschach never gave it another go, and never managed to leave the underground the way some more persistent outfits did. A re-issue of their two full-lengths a few years ago is a great reminder of their legacy which should not remain buried; whatever signs of protests have been made in the past, have to come up to the surface to instigate another revolution on the ever-welcoming volatile music horizon.

This will kick your ass - 100%

raspberrysoda, December 13th, 2016

Protestant will kick your ass so hard that you won't be able to walk for weeks. It is a masterpiece of metallic hardcore, 90s metal, and a lot of other genres too, because it mixes them all.

The music here could be described as a mixture of metallic hardcore, hardcore punk, punk rock, thrash metal, death metal, grindcore, black metal, doom metal and overall plain kickass material. Riff-wise, this album is more varied and original than their former release, which is considered a groundbreaking album in powerviolence. They are less oriented in punk and Voivod-y style riffs, and instead show a huge variety of influences with providing one of the album's most notable creative points. The dissonant factor is still very prominent here, but instead of going full Slayer, they had their tempo changed every few bars which gives Protestant a somewhat progressive and chaotic atmosphere. Breakdowns were used here as well, but instead of being overused in a bad way (like most metalcore bands do today), they are used very sparsely and are unintrusive to the music and the album's atmosphere, such as the ones in "Recurring Nightmare #105" and "Blinders" which feature some of the best breakdowns of the first wave of metalcore.

Rorschach seemed very angry at the time of the recording, because this album features nothing but pure artsy hatred. The guy who did the vocals here changed his vocal style from a harsh type of cleans to a more schizopheric BM-ish type of scream, which works very well with the disjointed music that is prominent throughout the entire record. "Raw Nerve" and "In Ruins" show the anger in its most raw and powerful way, with these both songs immediately bringing the band's first album to mind. The bass work and the drumming in Protestant are nothing short of stellar here, with not being overshadowed by any instrument in the mix and are very creative and well performed too. There are numerous clean sections in use here and often trigger a very disturbing and dissonantic atmosphere- with the best example being "Ornaments" which is one of the most atmospheric tracks here.

As the title and the first line of the review suggest, this kicks ass, and with the top notch musicianship, the angry approach, and the disjointed atmosphere make this record an absolute classic of 90's metal, hardcore, metalcore, and music in general. Mandatory.