Reviews

Beyond Pain, Humans Are Actual Pain. (To Live A Lie Records, 2018)

When No Echo last caught up with Will Butler, ringleader of the inimitable To Live A Lie Records, it was to big up Tired of Everything, his own killer brainchild. In the intervening months, he’s remained impossibly busy pissing in (on) the mainstream. In addition to a raging 7” by Baltimore’s favorite hardcore punk heroes Glue Traps, Butler and Co. released what’s one of, if the not most, righteously antagonistic split releases of recent memory.

Pairing the ripping Terminal Nation with the fascist-stomping black metal crusaders of Neckbeard Deathcamp, To Live A Lie has essentially become its own rubberized golden stamp of approval. In much the same way I looked to Deep Six, Havoc, or 625 for topshelf albums; TLAL Recs is today’s flagbearer for quality grindcore, fastcore, power violence, and hardcore. Clearly, there’s a reason the cassette release of my current obsession is being handled by my favorite power violence purveyors. 

Enter Los Angeles’ Beyond Pain.

Released in the waning moments of 2018 (12/28/18),  Humans Are Actual Pain arrived a hair late to be found rotting stockings from the inside out. Barely 5 minutes in runtime, Beyond Pain still somehow to cram a full-length’s worth of fearsome material into their aptly titled EP. Should there be a sensation “beyond pain” itself, I’ll gladly be gluttonous for said punishment if it’s anything like this. Exploring, as you might expect, all the standard sonic headstones in the extreme music graveyard, there’s more at work in this cache of songs than expected.

There are, of course, elements of and nods to genre torchbearers like Apartment 213, Capitalist Casualties, Endless Blockade, Sex Prisoner, or the force of nature that is Despise You, with whom they coincidentally share a member. However, they temper the all-blast, all-the-time ethos of traditional power violence or fastcore with elements of straight up doom and sludge.

Photo: Amy Carla Nelson

That they successfully manage subtle and tasteful turns of pace within what’s essentially a :45 blast on sonic terror is a feat in itself, giving the listener the sensation of abbreviated grasps of breath before being plunged back underwater. Beyond Pain, much like the equally bruising roster of To Live A Lie, can masquerade in any hardcore-adjacent world. As is often the case, equal opportunity extremity like this allows for a diverse and wider-ranging audience. This has allowed them to melt faces alongside disparate acts such as Bent Life, ACxDC, Eyehategod, Dying Wish, Momentum, and Bandit.  

Opener “B.F.P.” stands for, you guessed it, "Beyond Fucking Pain." As quickly as a tortured spoken word sample declares the album title, the band launches into a violent swarm of grindcore drums punctuated by an absolutely horrendous and guttural scream of “Beyond Fucking Pain.” For a band whose primary weapon is speed, the tempo swings wildly between blazing speed and a pulverizing beatdown. The subsequent track “Plea to Sustain” pummels in both its adherence to fastcore tradition as well as the groove-laden hardcore passage it ends on.

Photo: Kiki Molina

The EP’s midpoint, “Submission/Destruction,” is, for me, the highlight. At the end of the first few vocal runs, they rain blastbeats all over the last place you’d expect them to, fitting flurries into the tiniest of spaces. Refusing to play within the confines of any one genre, the brief but astonishing guitar histrionics on display in the song’s back half belie a band that can likely play circles around their crusty contemporaries yet confidently pull punches in favor of serving the songs themselves. Fret-flexing aside, it’s also when Beyond Pain first unleash a perfectly blown-out, nasty low end bass sound that’s sure to rattle the greater L.A. area.

In much the same way there’s a top-tier death metal band hidden in their DNA, next track “System of Hate” alternates between expert blasting grind/hardcore and doom. Again, the brevity of the EP is misleading, as they still find time for a sludge streak that rivals the darkest and heaviest moments of titans like Xibalba. As the song begins to choke itself into the final seconds, the harbinger of a grief-stricken voice warning of being overrun by technology. It bleeds, fittingly, into the unforgiving “Release the Singularity.” Beyond Pain seem, at that very moment, prepared to accept our fate will be decided by villainous computer overlords. The song itself is as close as power violence and general extremity gets to both necessary and nihilistic. It also peddles on of my favorite power violence traditions, that of vocal trade-offs between a bad cop and, uhhhh, a much worse one.

Photo: Amy Carla Nelson

The band seems content to beckon the unforgiving army of fried motherboards, their cold and threatening digital backwash the only thing left standing after the instruments shut off. Much like pain itself, it doesn’t so much end as it just recedes. Beyond Pain are waiting for you. It’ll hurt, but I promise… you’ll love it, freaks. 

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