Long Island, NY’s LIMIT are a youthful and energetic group whose sound draws as much from the 1980s hardcore punk sound as it does from the more modern thrash hardcore sound that they grew up on. Their story began with Provider, a short-lived hardcore band that wound up being the foundation for LIMIT. Where Provider left off, LIMIT picked up and pushed forward. Singer Dylan Tobia admits, “I really didn’t want to do another heavy hardcore band. When I started this band I wanted to do a band that was in the vein of Mental, Righteous Jams, Outburst, and Underdog.” And the band’s first official EP, Hypertension, reflects just that tenet.
Hypertension is an apt name for the release too. The songs burst with manic energy. They capture the mood and tension of a sweaty DIY hardcore punk show, and they do so without being too bold. The EP’s first song, “Pressure,” draws the listener straight into the deep end of LIMIT’s sound. Tobia’s scratchy vocals complement the song’s verses well, and he knows when to slow it down over the melodic accents laid down by the guitars. The song’s closing breakdown is at once melodic and frenetic. Moreover, there’s a crunch to the song’s closure that satisfies the mosh-readiness of modern hardcore and the more head-bopping sound found in early D.C. hardcore.
“The Game” also draws out a distinct connection to that early D.C. sound. The cascading guitar work in the verses drives the song into a thumping drum beat only to pull into a melodic yet frantic breakdown that closes the song at just two minutes long. Short, fast, and loud indeed. There is something very austere and genuine in these songs. They do not come off at all as derivative or plagiaristic. Rather, they sound exactly as they should and as they are: fast hardcore punk songs played by people who have an appreciation for the genre.
For Tobia, much of the writing is personal too. “After college I figured I would be able to get a full-time job, be able to move out, and really start my own life,” Tobia reflects. “I’m still at home, constantly getting yelled at by family about ‘where I should be,’ and struggling to get by. You’re told to go to school and get a job and all good things will happen, but we all know that’s not all true; you can’t help but feel like ‘what am I doing wrong?’ From those feelings and my personal experiences is where I drew the inspiration to write the lyrics to ‘Pressure’ and ‘The Game.’” That frustration and stress comes through in the recording. It’s there, embedded in the songs and certainly in Dylan’s raspy but distinct vocals. Recording with Darren Nanos, himself a long-standing member of the Long Island and New York City hardcore scenes, made sense and helped give Hypertension that genuine vibe.
“Working with Darren Nanos was sick. We recorded with him for two days. The first was with the whole band, and the second was just vocals. It was so quick I couldn’t believe it. His method of recording is very interesting as well. When I was recording vocals with him, instating of punching me in right where I would need to scream, he would tell me to start screaming a couple of measures before that part so it would sound more organic,” says Tobia. The energy captured on the recording gives the feel of a very frantically paced, yet highly proficient, production. And that simply feeds into the sound LIMIT has cultivated on Hypertension. On Nanos’s suggestion, the band had the EP mastered by none other than Don Fury, and so it’s little surprise why the EP sounds as full, energetic, and candid as it does.
The EP’s second track, “Under Arrest,” is the record’s most ingenuitive song. Opening with a powerful and brooding bassline laid over cutting guitar ring outs, the song moves with a more mid-tempo pacing than the others. However, the chugging guitars balance themselves with aptly placed octaves and even a cleverly-placed twanging guitar bridge that is inventive but not at all out of place. Lyrically, the song reflects Dylan’s experience with police intimidation. Tobia adds, “Throughout my life I've had weird run-in with the laws and have been treated like shit in the past.” Interestingly his experiences are that of a suburban kid simply being bullied, and “Under Arrest” is inspired in part by an experience he had in which two officers pretended to plant a gun in his friend’s car as a joke. As Tobia tells it, “Eventually the cops were like ‘don’t worry it’s a joke, you should have seen your faces’ and they were laughing at us. I was so angry and just felt so helpless.” A reactionary song, “Under Arrest” seethes with the resentment one might expect to harbor after such an ordeal.
As a proper first release, Hypertension hits just about everything on the checklist. It’s a step up from earlier recordings. It’s a showcase of the band’s musicianship. It echoes the band’s collective ideology. And it accurately reflects the band’s influences without being imitative. The only issue with this EP is its length. Four songs in total, Hypertension clocks in at under ten minutes. The point is, LIMIT needs to give us more. But that’s a good problem to have, of course.
If Kill Your Idols, Black Flag, and early Bad Religion spark your interest, give Hypertension a shot.