Reviews

Magnitude, To Whatever Fateful End (Triple-B Records, 2019)

My formative hardcore era was the mid-'90s to the early '00s. The tail end of the HeartattaCk/Great American Steak Religion/Ebullition reign. The rise of labels like Victory, Equal Vision, Ferret, etc. The broadening of the Revelation Records palette, and the widening divide between the heavier, more PC/DIY hardcore world and the new Bridge Nine/"posi" scene, etc.

Suffice it to say, I've had mixed feeling about the resurgence of these eclectic sounds and divisive ideas in recent years. Despite many bands "nailing" the style and aesthetic — some finding massive success (in a few cases, we're talking millions of plays for a decidedly mediocre facsimile of a lone, comparatively unappreciated influence) — I've been mostly underwhelmed by this supposed rebirth, with a handful of exceptions.

Magnitude, however, isn't merely an exception. These North Carolina gentlemen have managed to parlay the promise of their EP and demo into something far superior; a full-length amalgam of '90s/'00s influences that stands shoulder to shoulder with its forebears while sidestepping the camp and cliché that snares so many modern peers. 

Accurate comparisons to Strife, Trial, Strain, Outspoken, et al should be tantalizing enough for any discerning fan of the genre, but there's something more overarching at play here. Something not quite so easy to put into words. In an attempt to explain it to one of my oldest friends, someone who has also spent an inordinate amount of time pondering the big questions in hardcore life, I said it was more the feeling that this record conjures than simply its sonics and touchstones — that, personally, it resonates on a nostalgic level that I couldn't quite verbalize. His response was typically lengthy and perfect:

"It's the soundtrack to those precious teenage years of discovery and excitement. It's when hardcore was still rooted and aware of the past but pushing towards the future. 

It's Bane having members of Converge and Barrit in the band. It's Trial putting out a record that melts your brain and there's a special something about the fact that a member of Catharsis is on there. 

It's hearing new bands on the punk shows on the volunteer run radio stations.

It's the feeling of listening to Ten Yard Fight and Floorpunch then picking up One King Down's Bloodlust Revenge because it's also on Equal Vision and you're expecting more of the same and that first song melts your brain.

It's the feeling of picking up a Victory Megazine with Raybeez on the cover and a Victory Style II cassette sampler in a slip-on cardboard case left on a table by a diligent street team member.

It's compilations, samplers, and mixtapes.

It's when hardcore was getting more accessible because labels were working with some bigger distributors and kids from the sticks could finally get into it but it's not on TV yet.

It's 1997 - 2000. 

It's when bands decided it was ok to give a nod to their past by including a Cantrell or Dimebag inspired solo in an intro.

It's poring over lyrics sheets and zines and discovering a lot of new concepts and ideas and figuring what you believe with the same fervour as you did with Dead Kennedys records except it's by people and about things happening now.

It's driving overnight and sleeping in a parking lot then following hand written signs and vague directions to several different spots to finally end up in the parking lot outside of the venue where the fest is gonna end up happening and there are people from all over the place there. You meet a bunch of people from a city nine hours away because you're wearing the shirt of their best friend's band. This moment is more important than you realize at the time.

It's Morning Again having a record on Revelation alongside the Chain of Strength and Youth of Today reissues.

It's working up the courage to talk to the band after the show.

It's the Violent World comp where a bunch of bands cover one of your other favourite punk bands and it all makes sense.

It's starting to feel free because you now spend more time with your friends than your family.

When the piano outro hits you can hear the sound of the dubbed cassette's wheels spinning in your tape deck and you can picture the track listing written in your best friend's hand writing on the back of a flyer for a show at a brightly lit community centre in a town 5 hours away that you might go to if your other friend's friend that you met at a show a couple of weeks ago can borrow the car."

Photo: Ann Spina

And all of it was dead on. That's the feeling of this Magnitude LP and it's also the feeling that's missing amongst much of the current crop. The feeling of discovery and excitement as opposed to simply nodding to something that already exists. And I don't think it'll just appeal to "older" folks in that regard. It's not just that Magnitude is nailing the sounds of the bands that made us feel something. It's that it sounds like they are feeling something.

The conviction and energy is palpable, the way it was on Are These Our Lives?, the way it was on Plastic Surgery Disasters, and also the way it is on Camp Cope's How to Socialise and Make Friends or Martha's Courting Strong. It's delivered with purpose and meaning and passion and desperation and you can feel it. And that shit is rare.

I'm quite sure that all sounds like a bunch of old-man-yells-at-cloud nonsense to most people, but if not, spend some time with this record. And congrats to Magnitude and the ridiculously consistent Triple-B. This is really something special.

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