Every few years, America seems to selfishly declare that English punk and hardcore is "good again," as if we've collectively rediscovered a dormant scene awaiting Stateside approval. Spoiler alert... it's always ruled and certainly never went anywhere. Since discovering the flawless Greetings from the Welfare State comp issued by BYO in the '90s, I've been floored by the constant stream of killer punk and extreme music of all stripes from the land of hope and glory. Aside from obsessively combing the nascent Internet for overseas treasure in the early 'oughts, Holy Roar Records has long had a veritable stranglehold on the metal scene.
There's a killer batch of current hardcore punk bands worth gushing over, including Throwing Stuff, Nosebleed, Pizzatramp, Aerial Salad, Rash Decision, and Grand Collapse. Everyone is acutely aware of the musical riches grown on Mancunian soil. Manchester, England has gifted us legends like The Fall, Buzzcocks, Joy Division, and Oasis, among others.
Self-described "faux crust hardcore" unit Incisions has firmly planted themselves in the same neighborhood's lineage, having recently dropped a stunner of a full-length LP via TNSrecords. Rounding out a truly killer roster, they're leading the hometown charge for rollicking punk and hardcore. In much the same way I hopelessly gushed over the stellar Youth Avoiders LP a while back in these very pages, the S/T album from Incisions is as immediate as it is re playable.
The follow-up to 2017's Quit Now EP finds the band incorporating early USHC, UK82, street punk, and straight up, light speed rock and roll to their already jagged attack. The band have heard their sound encapsulated in this apt description: as if "Minor Threat had been dragged through every bar in Manchester.' While I'd concur, there are various touchstones they manage to incorporate into their taut yet still reckless fury. As is often the case, my favorite punk bands tend to come without qualifiers. It's just fucking ripping.
The entire LP is overfull with bangers, including the street punk vibes running through "Corrupted System" or the bellowed, Oi!-tinged vocals of "Sound Carlos." The opening suite, if you will, of "Deny" into "War in Your Head" is where the band manages to display all of their menacing wares at once. The 1/2 punch is a dizzying assault that showcases their masterful take on revved up, riffy modern hardcore.
"Deny" begins in a slither, the slow lurch of toms and guitar eventually exploding into screams and snares vaulting over each other. It appropriately conjures the other famous "deniers of everything" Circle Jerks with a quick build of pace that's uber exhilarating when it ultimately jumps the cliff. Incisions toy with punctuating an already feral vocalist with a "stop on a dime" sensibility, adding an ever more menacing air to the proceedings. There's a hint of Jeffrey Eaton via Modern Life is War in the ferocious but melodic capabilities of the singer, finding a fractured and frenzied hummability lying beneath the blitzkrieg. That he manages to achieve a punk gruffness and clarity is a feat in itself over the backdrop of an anvil-heavy rhythm section, all propulsion and power.
Though I couldn't find recording credits, this was tastefully and thoughtfully committed to wax. There's a depth and thickness to the session that allows each instrument room to bludgeon and yet still make room for the maniacal carnival barker at the center of it all. When he gobs "Why don't you die, you fucking prick?" into "I'm bruised and I'm bloodied..." there's a passion that sidesteps trope, as there's clearly an intended target for such a ruthless barb. Given their staunchly political anti-racist and anti-fascist stance, it's easy to envision multiple politicos in the cross-hairs.
As sharp and tight as the band may be, there's a looseness that makes Incisions street-ready, fit as much for swagger as they are the pint-guzzling stagger home.
Where "Deny" eases us, albeit momentarily, into the proceedings, "War in Your Head" drops us into a war zone, riffs, shrieks, and squalls of feedback reigning down like shrapnel. In much the same way the prior track's moniker possibly nods to past classics, one can't help but think of Black Flag "My War/In My Head" as inspiration. With a riff that works as well on the Nervous Breakdown EP as it does in 2019, there's a clear understanding of every generation's take on hardcore. With a chorus instantaneously stamped in your brain, their rousing sing-along talents are clear.
The band wisely employs a bruising gang vocal of "They'll Kill Us All" as the opening of a song that serves as a take down of the warmongering that seemingly plagues every nation, transcending borders the world over. Perhaps the war in question indeed lies within our minds, as the media's manipulation of public consciousness is today's battleground. In grand punk tradition, the band soundtracks both the nihilism and the hope that begs to remain inherent in despair. It's also in moments like these they feel wonderfully and undeniably British. You can almost see the Tories being taken to the mat. Eerily applicable to nearly anyone who happens to listen, Incisions are adding essential dialogue to the worldwide punk conversation. As expected, they absolutely skewer the far right, laying waste to fascists. Up the punx.
Incisions' ability to transcend genre pigeonholes has found them recently sharing stages with everyone from Drug Church to Bad Brains' HR and the summer will find them supporting everyone's favorite "Kids of the Black Hole", The Adolescents. Set to bring their firebrand take on Hardcore Punk to Rebellion Fest in August as well as the eye-popping lineup of the Manchester Punk Festival in April, Incisions are set to slice and dice all year long. If you get a chance, go get cut.
*Homepage photo by Hold My Pint