How SØØN is now?
Honolulu isn’t the first place we’ve been conditioned to look for hardcore. Stateside, there’s currently an embarrassment of riches in the world of punk and hardcore. The inherent difficulty of being a touring proposition based in Hawaii is only complicated tenfold in trying, uncertain times.
You’ve got no excuse to check out SØØN, an absolutely amazing hardcore punk band from the island of Oahu. This is seething and authentic feminist rage of the first order, free of the pretense and macho bullshit that still pervades the darker corners of the scene.
Touching on everything from antifascism and feminism to the righteous fight by Native Hawaiians to preserve the sacred site of Maunakea, SØØN peddles its firebrand take on hardcore with no excuses and even fewer apologies.
Formed in 2018, their latest full-length LP, What the Fuck Did We Dø tø the Earth, was released earlier this month. The band marries elements of fastcore, Youth Crew, straight-up hardcore, and punk’s grimier end. As if it weren’t enough, they’re clearly well versed in a litany of other adjacent sub genres. SØØN is very much a now proposition and should be a going concern for anyone into hardcore of any stripe.
Contemporaries called to mind are C.H.E.W., Haram, Exit Order, Physique, and Tørsö, yet SØØN manage a singular DNA that sets them apart on, well, an island all their own.
As the album title suggests, Soon aren’t ones for subtlety. In the grand and storied tradition of aptly named song titles for hardcore album openers, “Intro” starts midway into a rad two-step that splits the difference between '90s Rev and early '80s USHC. The band absolutely pummels and are locked in from the first blazing seconds, but the moment you’re gifted the first feral screams, you realize you’re hearing something truly special.
Added to the cacophony is a bludgeoning breakdown that sufficiently end-caps the song. Vocalist/Lyricist Kalena is an absolute monster all over the LP. Sitting somewhere between the raw-throated brilliance of Punch and Cerce, the vocalist is utterly unhinged in the best possible way.
“Die” almost immediately showcases a variety of their best and most fearsome sonic weapons. This song also starts in what feels like mid-song with off-rhythm, ferocious screams and an impossibly busy rhythm section bolstered by Buffy’s frenetic basswork and the “all-fills” attack of drummer Seth. They flash an adherence to hardcore classicism with a note-perfect buildup that transitions seamlessly into yet another brutalizing breakdowns.
After a momentary pause that feels like the endpoint, they plummet recklessly into fastcore that borders on power violence. A dozen or so listens in and that fakeout never fails to exhilarate.
Again managing to merge seemingly disparate elements into a shockingly cohesive whole, “A Nøthing” starts with a passage that sounds like Have Heart’s “Machinist” as performed by Courtney Love which, if you know me, is the highest of compliments. The drums toss in blastbeats in places also-rans and lesser hands might rely on fills, cramming any available moment with pounding. High in the mix as they should be for fastcore, they echo violently like Gatling guns.
Elsewhere, SØØN revels in good, old-fashioned speed. “Lies” finds its footing in doses of NYHC and crossover thrash, whereas its followup is a sub :10 banger that ends with a simple “...fuck you.” It pairs well with the album’s other gem of brevity in “Gunk," a thirty second tour of pastiche noise and grindcore intensity. Whether bashing out 4/4 punishment or blindingly fast hardcore like the wall of punk noise that is the powerviolence-leaning “Ready," the songs all bend and warp themselves to match the commanding vocal performance.
“Øver” is the sound of the Earth eulogizing itself to the soundtrack of a plaintive and melancholic melody. The ambient introduction lends a deeply melancholic air to the proceedings but, as expected, it’s quickly usurped by discordant feedback and what sounds like three drummers fighting an unnamed force. The back half is as poignant as the first, but to the sound of the planet revolting and punching back.
The back to back effect of “Økay I Get It” and “Get Øut” is a masterclass on genuine urgency and a seemingly honest portrayal of a band legitimately pissed. The former keeps the needle desperately in the red, all go and no slow. Ending on a confrontational tone of mid-paced menace, its malicious twin is another incredible vocal performance. Kalena’s scream in all its ferocity borders on barbarism, their particular barbs aimed at any and all takers.
“Landfill” starts with a sample from Greta Thunberg’s monumental speech at the UN Climate Action Summit. Eschewing the same Apocalypse fatigue that plagued our young hero, the band plays with an equally insistent fire as to defeat our collective resignation with an impassioned flare. Musically, the band keeps it minimal, nearly screeching to a halt before laying a firestorm of a breakdown at our feet.
“Why Bøther” both poses and perhaps answers the questions posed by seemingly unanswerable crises, it ends on the LP’s most straight ahead punk vibes. I can imagine this blasting out of a shitty boombox sitting precariously on a backyard halfpipe and, in true bookend fashion, they bring back the rad two step. See yourselves out, tourists. Hawaii is spoken for.
SØØN is fucking now.
- Bandcamp (Digital)