Reviews

These Streets, Expect the Worst (Upstate Records, 2020)

Whose streets? 

Last month, No Echo got the jump and premiered the title track for Expect the Worst, the latest EP from Modesto’s These Streets.

Unlike the moniker of the sunny California clime they call home, there’s nothing modest about these five tracks, boasting a litany of collaborations and guest spots. As before, they still split well the difference between brutal metallic hardcore, deathcore, and even hints of something nü, if you will.

But this time they’re bolstered by an ever heavier attack and an increasingly wide pallet.

These Streets sit well alongside modern heavies like Spite, Orthodox, and I AM but bring a savagery not altogether unlike Year of the Knife, Hands of God, or Division of Mind. Playing the “sounds like” game only goes so far with them, though, because they brought a bevy of unexpected influences this go round. Let’s get it. 

As if underwater, “Stay Awake” arrives like a long slumbering sea beast rumbling to life. The first kill is made via the martial drumming, an absolutely relentless rhythmic onslaught. There’s a “stop on a dime” tech vibe to their guitar riffs, each one punctuated with guttural back and forth vocals stamped to their ends. They wildly fuck with pacing, pairing slower moments with dovetailing guitar squeals and unexpected clean singing.

An early highwater mark comes in the form of an intimidating “Oooooh” and a noisy vocal manipulation more akin to Code Orange’s mangled nü metal. The crush grooves come just as the tempo shifts, feeling both more experimental and confident than before.

Beneath the swirling madness of metallic hardcore, there’s even time to slip in a radio rock worthy chorus. One can imagine there’s a well worn copy of Hybrid Theory to be found should you rummage through their practice space. Lest you think the band is courting accessibility, listen to the anvil-heavy bludgeon with which they approach their breakdowns.

Photo courtesy of Upstate Records

These Streets have found tasteful ways to slip in the technicolor bounce and hip hop drum work nü metal. Lyrically, this bacchanalian party ode is your final respite before traveling deeply down into the band’s collective and bruised psyche. 

The second track “Misery” is the first of four songs to split duties with endlessly talented friends, this one getting the assist from Desolated. “Serenity...”, when shouted with unmatched and impossible bile is a neat inversion, sounding everything but tranquil. They’re constantly moving, fucking with tempo, and myriad different vocal patterns, which keep it fresh and exciting throughout the runtime.

To be honest, the lyric sheet isn’t for the faint of heart. There are countless couplets that are so thoroughly bleak and somber that it’s a wonder these songs weren’t extinguished by the weight of the words themselves. “Wishing I was fucking dead…” hurts even a stranger to hear, but it’s the pained and lachrymose lyrics that pull me in. Wisely eschewing the pugilistic chest-thumping of beatdown hardcore in favor of something more inward facing and self loathing, the grave honesty on display here is worth applauding.  

Cody Fuentes shows up on “Irreversible," a crushing midpoint that features a rhythmic bounce the EP’s catchiest hook. The earworm melody aside, there’s a haunting and anguished ambient tacked on to the back end of this one that matches the track’s thematic bent.

Running from the curse of failed fathers and the hex of repeating the same paternal fuck-ups makes for intriguing and sadly relatable content. Familial strain can sometimes follow you through life like a hex and, though melancholic, it lends the song a universal urgency best when blasted cathartically. 

You’ve already gotten the skinny on the title song featuring Easy Money, but it’s a showcase of grinding and mechanized riffing, slithering bass, and bowel shaking drops. Again, the vocals vary wildly, sporting everything from a bellicose bellow and frantic screeching to the barking of a hardcore carnival.

They know their way around their instruments, calling to mind both the more precise end of deathcore a la Despised Icon and the bottom heavy sludge of Acacia Strain. 

Proving that sometimes more is, well, more, “Bound to Break” doubles down on features, with both Spite and Born A New taking a stab at the microphone. The staccato rhythms and hip-hop inflections keep These Streets halfway between NYHC and modern melodic hardcore.

At the midpoint is a stellar run of bass and toms that segues into a melody cribbed from the Life of Agony playbook. As unpredictable as the band is, they even find time to seamlessly toss in a slam metal pig squeal for good measure. It escapes on the wind with but a whisper, as if denying the fact that they just punched you in the teeth for nearly 15 minutes. It’s a thrilling and punishing listen. 

So I’ll ask again… Whose Streets? These Streets! 

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