Raw Breed, Universal Paranoia (Convulse Records, 2022)

That the verdant Rocky Mountain state has transitioned into a wellspring for hardcore punk shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It’s no accident that Denver institution Convulse Records always seems to be at its epicenter. They keep cooking it up and I keep greedily gobbling it down. Next up on their Michelin-grade menu of menace is Raw Breed. 

Intentionally and gruesomely stitched from heavy hitters The Consequence, Prowler, Direct Threat, and Candy Apple. At their collective core, this mile high unit is both rotten and rewarding. Universal Paranoia finds them operating at their absolute zenith. 

The middle of this band’s hardcore Venn diagram is a glorious melange of raw hardcore, the streetwise sensibilities of NYHC, hints of D-beat, and myriad elements cribbed from extreme music’s bottomless playbook.

Opting for a decidedly punk-sounding recording courtesy of Joey Hildalgo, the added Will Killingsworth “master” stroke lends a ferocious and unhinged edge to an already fearsome sound. 

Hard as nails opener “Salvation” lays down an unfuckwithable template for everything the band builds towards across the long player. Immediately, we’re thrust into highly ratcheted unease, trading endless riffs with the snarling and bilious bile of a vocalist not far from more crust-leaning acts. Added flourishes abound here, just peep that tortured, squealing guitar or the note perfect and low slung bass tone. 

Elsewhere, the band leans into its more New York indebted roots on “G.D.K.," which keeps the tempo in flux from the jump, vacillating between a lock step groove and unshakeable tendency to blast into speedier terrain.

“Fallacy” marries their unique brand of devastation to an undeniable stomp akin to modern purveyors like Spy. It’s a wild vibe that conjures Madball as fronted by Tragedy whilst Tørsö warms up in the background. 

Midway point “Prison Soul” pays homage to the time honored tradition of announcing the song title in the opening seconds. The frenzy is in triplicate here, with an unhinged higher register backing vocals trading vocal lines with the deeper, more bellicose lead. 

The one/two that is “United Masses” and “Government In Grip” boasts my favorite moments across the LP. The former is a warning blast to fence walkers everywhere. The visceral stomp pairs well with a deeply buried and mangled guitar solo. Raw Breed don’t hesitate to draw a fucking line. I’ll ask in much the same way the track itself does. “Which side are you on?”

The latter is a brief and booming track of pugilistic hardcore punk. It deftly transitions into the band’s more traditional hardcore side, dropping a vicious two step that disappears into its own upped BPM’s. If there are more exhilarating or effective slogans than “Fuck the Police," we have yet the find them. The track absolutely drips with disdain, matched only by the slithering and spiral bass lines. 

Photo: Joe Lacey 

Late album banger “Parody” is anything but. Eschewing the tired cut and paste end of hardcore punk, this shit is the blueprint, not the simulacrum. Again that bass player tacks on a sick rumbling element that elevates the entire proceedings. The noise-bating followup that is “Malignant Fantasy” employs Raw Breed’s latest weapon. Ostensibly an uneasy sound collage, it sounds violently agitated as it tosses audio samples of firefights, choppers, and disintegrating sonics. . 

Harkening back to the days of the data-cramming CD era, we all remember the elusive “hidden track.” I’m here for it. Listen beyond the all too brief, mid-faced fury of closer “Isolated Reality” and listeners will be gifted something at the end of an eyebrow raising, 11-minute runtime. Stick around for the credits, as they say.  

Raw Breed is the New Breed. Get on this if you like hardcore at all. It’s essential listening. 

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