Friction might have got fucked by the pandemic.
The Toronto hardcore outfit dropped a demo in late 2019 and began building the old-fashioned way. They opened bigger local shows with a raucous reception from their friends. They were starting to get booked as support for out-of-town acts like Anxious.
Then the shut down happened.
I was worried, as someone who saw Friction’s vision and hustle. How would the pandemic affect their newfound momentum?
That question remains to be answered, but the break certainly didn’t affect the band’s laser-focus. They recently had the honour of playing the first notes of live hardcore in Toronto after 18 months. Then three weeks later they dropped Conditioned to Chaos, a meaty 7-song EP—a completely evolved take on what the demo aimed for.
Friction’s demo was the caterpillar. Lovable local hardcore, indebted to No Warning with sniffs of the Lockin’ Out catalog. Conditioned to Chaos is the butterfly. The band has metamorphosized. Unable to move for an extended period, they’ve broken down their enzymes, stewed them in juice, and burst out in a more complex and fully realized form.
I was scratching my head after my first listen. “Is this the same band? Is this even hardcore? Is this what Biohazard sounds like?” The only super-traditional hardcore song is the title track, which conjures visions of Rampage or even Agnostic Front.
Otherwise, the decisions on this EP are outside the box. At least half of these songs are slow. Opener “The Beginning of Existence” bounces along like modern NY-influenced hardcore, crescendo-ing at just the right time. You expect a slam riff, or maybe some stop-mosh. You instead get a slow drum and bass break with a weird sample overlay that makes the breakdown sound just as much like dance music as hardcore.
The meat of “Keepin’ It Real” is two Suffer Survive-esque riffs interspersed with drum solos that somehow make the riffs hit harder each time they come back in. There’s a mosh part at the end for good measure, but the heaviest moment in that song is when the intro riff comes back after the second drum solo.
My favorite song, “Take it or Leave It," is one part, played in various iterations (save for a fast verse right in the middle). Vocalist and producer Matthew Tomasi basically treats this track like a rap song, creating dynamics through vocal layering and adding/subtracting instruments.
The ideas on Conditioned to Chaos are complex. The EP is best, however, when the execution is simple. Sometimes, the songs can get bogged down. Often, the bounce gives way to dirty, dirgy moments that sound almost power violence inspired. These parts are absolutely menacing at best, but at worst they slow the songs down and suck out the energy.
The EP’s faster moments, while essential to song structure, lack technical proficiency and sound kind of sloppy. That sloppiness doesn’t bode well considering the record’s fuller sounding production.
The production is a highlight overall, though. It’s the through-line between the EP’s smorgasbord of influences and ideas. Tomassi’s vision for this record shines through, as he continues to improve behind the board on every Homie Shit Mag release. Arthur Rizk’s mastering helps fill the sound out too. His inclusion was a great choice considering Conditioned to Chaos has Cold World and War Hungry DNA all over it.
Tough New York groove seems to be in the twilight of its stranglehold on modern hardcore. Bands with straightforward punk influence are what’s hot. Friction could have easily jumped ship and went that direction. They also could have stuck to the formula, putting out a retread of shit we’ve been hearing for 10 years.
Both of those choices would suck. Friction chooses to carve their own lane. They stay true to themselves while also dumping a ton of creative energy into making something different. Anyone who likes this type of hardcore should enjoy the fresh twists on a classic formula.