Pain of Truth is one of those bands whose name is perfectly apt for the band’s sound and aesthetic. The band hits with an aggressiveness that gives the listener pause, even for the hardcore world.
The group is fronted by Michael Smith, a young man who’s easily one of the busiest people in the hardcore underground. He plays guitar in Hangman, he plays bass in Victory Garden, and he’s the vocalist in Pain of Truth. What’s great there is that none of these bands sounds all that similar to the others.
On their debut EP for Dazed Records, No Blame…Just Facts, one hears that Pain of Truth’s sound is at once a modern example of heavy austere hardcore and an homage to the early '90s Roadrunner Records sound.
The EP’s first proper song after the intro, “The Test,” opens with heavy grooving guitars that bring out a Biohazard vibe. Those grooving riffs also open up Smith’s vocal cadences and allow him to add a bit of a hip-hop influence there. His shouting-to-talking style gives clarity to the lyrics, and ring with a Dog Eat Dog vibe.
The closing to the song is a straightforward thudding breakdown that is elevated by Dan Seely’s guest vocals. The King Nine frontman’s more guttural vocal stylings here offer a strong juxtaposition to Smith’s style, and they bring another layer to the song’s final breakdown.
Interestingly enough, the guest appearances don’t end with “The Test.” In fact, that’s just the start. Every song on the EP, save the intro, has guest vocals. Without the pressure to get the release out by a particular date, there was a lot of freedom to make the guest spots happen. Smith offers, “Dan Seely, Martin, and Josh Haynes all came straight to the studio to record. Tyler Mullen and Dom Pabon didn’t their track down in Philly and had them sent up to us. All we had was time so it was stress free.”
Reading those names back, you see the pedigree: Rude Awakening. Billy Club Sandwich. Simulakra. King Nine. Year of the Knife. The heavy is everywhere. Having guest vocals on every song actually gives the EP an odd sense of structure and cohesion too. Nothing is overblown about the vocals here, and they all bring a little something more to each of the songs.
In fact, Smith called on Martin from BCS because he wanted make sure Martin was cool with him using a line from a Billy Club Sandwich song on the track “No Blame…Just Facts.” Martin said he’d just lay down the lines himself.
From a thematic standpoint, “No Blame…Just Facts” focuses largely on coming to terms with the unforgiving realities of the world at large. “As I get older I just realize more and more how fucked up the world is. The truth literally just hurts,” says Smith when asked about his lyrics. The may not be better felt than on the EP’s closer “LINYHC":
The song opens with a speeding verse track that balances Smith’s vocals with a trio of guests: Pabon, Mullen, and Haynes. But as the song pounds toward the closing breakdown, the drums pull back a bit and allow for the choppy breakdown guitar riffs to come to the forefront. And the aforementioned lyrical content is brimming throughout the song.
Vocalist Smith reflects, “This is about someone non-hardcore related, super manipulative and fucked up. Just about meeting someone, seeing right through them and knowing right away that you don’t fuck with them. At the same time the lyrics can relate to fake motherfuckers in the scene.”
While this isn’t new lyrical fodder, it’s still certainly well done here. That Pain of Truth uses a Connor McGregor sound bite to open the song can’t be overlooked either. It’s pretty clever, and suits the track’s feel perfectly.
What Pain of Truth offer on No Blame…Just Facts is heavy and aggressive hardcore with lots of interesting twists and turns. Some of the songs definitely have a hip-hop vibes while others, like “Two Choices,” draw from the more classic hardcore well:
Point is, the band gives the listener different sounds on each song while also having a cohesive aesthetic overall. One wishes live shows were going on at the moment because Pain of Truth would most definitely bring the mosh and the sing-alongs. But at least No Blame…Just Facts can get you moshing in your room.
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