Poison Headache are Phil Sgrosso’s (As I Lay Dying) new threepiece side project, the band hailing from San Diego and released on Metal Blade Records, this self-titled debut is far superior to the “metalcore” rubbish his former band offered. A full frontal hardcore assault, this aggressive album incorporates Thrash, Groove, Death and Sludge influences and the result is a modern metallic crossover any fan of real hardcore will love. Fans of the likes of Motörhead, Slayer and Machine Head will find a lot to headbang to in this ferocious offering.
Like every great hardcore band, the riffs are mosh conscious in their groove orientation and the vocals are vicious, hardcore is supposed to be fucking angry, and the rage seethes from this record. In researching this album I came across an online comment which I think was a very apt analogy for this album – “This is what hatebreed would sound like if they were good.”
The band is capable of providing progressive interludes and melodic transitions and showcases this in brief respites from its intrusive ferocity, but overall it gives you a lot to throw yourself around too and its violence is the best thing about it. It’s a stomper soundtrack for gritted teeth, clenched fists and testosterone release, a modern expression of hardcore as good as any.
The quality of production is without question excellent, the drums sound big and brilliant in the mix and the technically perfect screamed vocals are so clear and powerful. Converge’s 2001 classic Jane Doe, set the production standards for modern hardcore and this record if anything exceeds them. This may be their first album, but these guys have been playing together in different capacities for years and it shows, each transition flows seamlessly despite covering stylistic grounds spanning virtually the entire spectrum of Metal.
In the modern scene, many fans decry the rise of “Metalcore” as a failed marriage, yet Hardcore and Metal cover so much of the same ground philosophically and stylistically, the Heavy Metal acts of the 70s were crucial in outlining so many components of Hardcore and the original wave of Hardcore Punk is cited by Metallica and Slayer as key influences on the development of Thrash. This record stays true to this tradition, and the blurred lines between genres characteristic of so much good music (since the turn of the Century especially) is expressed with cohesion and professionalism whilst at the same time retaining that raw quality any hardcore album needs.
It is not technically impressive or experimental in any way, its simplicity and lack of originality holds me back from limiting this review exclusively to praise. There is only one guitarist and he smashes out killer riffs, but it does limit especially the breakdowns from having any room for interesting guitar work and the drumming is standard bashing, it does what it tries to do extremely well though.
My personal inclinations to desire a more technical style of composition in modern hardcore aside, it’s a cool album and seeing these guys live would be a lot of fun in the mosh pit.