Hard 2 Kill, 'Demo' (2022)

I’m gonna let you in on a secret. As a critic, I am often compelled to share with the people my deep, insightful unquestionably worthwhile thoughts on music that I just heard for the first time like, 10 seconds ago. I’m not complaining. But that’s not how criticism should be.

You wanna know how many times in my whole entire life I have profoundly connected with a piece of music the very first time I heard it? Five. Five times! That’s not the way music works. You need time, absorption, and reflection.

A song doesn’t hit you the first time, not really, not fully. I am telling you this because NJ/NY hardcore band Hard 2 Kill dropped their demo on June 17, and yes, it has taken me this long to sit with a 9-minute-long piece of music.

The demo isn’t hard to digest. If anything, Hard 2 Kill have managed to complete something that’s cohesive. I love it for that reason. Thematically, it screeches through each track with a vibe that reads as: “We don’t fit in anywhere and we’re cool with that. You should be too.” Relatable to just about everyone who has at least one foot standing firmly in the hardcore scene, it’s a demo made by freaks, for freaks. 

The session was recorded, mixed, and mastered with Sasha Stroud at Artifact Audio in Ridgewood, New York.

The influences across this short introduction to Hard 2 Kill are sometimes obvious, and other times out of left field. Hardcore of the 2000s and 2010s poke and prod their way through, like G.L.O.S.S., older Trash Talk, and Tear It Up. There are other moments where the poking and prodding is less subtle and more of a stab, with the sounds of Discharge, Poison Idea, and Doom. 

Apparently Hard 2 Kill was established in 2019, but with the pandemic annihilating every opportunity to play shows, the band went on a break until pseudo-normalcy was more back in swing. When mid-2021 rolled around, they started grinding on their tracks once again with the intention of putting out a demo that spoke to them.

It was clear immediately that the lead vocalist of this band could deliver words with a charisma and a ferocity that could alter the DNA of those words. Vocalist Andrew shouts out, “Never ever ever am I a cog in your machine / Never, will I ever be set free?” on the intro track. Delivery is everything when it comes to vocals, and Hard 2 Kill have naturally landed on something special. 

This demo doesn’t truly come alive until “Life In the Dark” hits, track two. The composition of the track is instantly gratifying, with the band sounding tight as all hell and the energy is palpable. Seeing it performed in a live setting would have me equally swooning and windmilling my way around the room.

There’s a quiet, seamless transition between “LITD” and “Break Out!” and I am a sucker for that sort of thing. But if I had to point to any track that is the true highlight and pure definition of what Hard 2 Kill are all about, it would be “Break Out!” The riffs are all there, the chorus of gang-shouting is infectious, and there’s a particular area of the song that will cause a ruckus in just about any New Jersey basement. You’ll know it when you hear it. 

“Into the Void” brings the band into a slower territory, but not for long. The opening riff rolls over into a stealthy bassline before ascending into speed and vivacity. “Life is a journey, you can never go back, It'll weigh you down and will knock you out flat, Pick yourself back up, you've got to take a stand and take control of your life, the choice is in your hands.”

Once again, another beautiful example of delivery changing the way words are heard and felt. If said or shouted by anyone else, they would crumble – but in this instance, they shoot from the hip and rock inspiration into listeners. 

“Regulate” is the longest track, clocking in at just two and a half minutes—but it doesn’t feel that long in the slightest. Heavy hitting and begging for a magnificent pit, the song shakes and jitters through some tastes of chaos and vigor. It’s hard to say where it will land in the end until you get there and when you do, it’s every bit as rewarding as when the demo first started. Time to hit repeat. 

With lyrics that speak to community and self-empowerment as well as heartwarming encouragement for people to be themselves, it’s easy to fall in love with a band that delivers excellent riffs and positive vibes in one quick demo. Hard 2 Kill are the band you need to be watching.

Tagged: hard 2 kill