Reviews

Typecaste, Between Life (Flatspot Records, 2020)

After a cursory glance at the cover art for Typecaste’s upcoming EP, Between Life, you’d be forgiven for finding the postcard worthy locale incongruous with the hard scrabble metallic hardcore the Northeast unit is known for. Yet, the placidity gracing the cover of their forthcoming song set isn’t to be found anywhere on the band’s latest offering.

Having first caught ears with both 2017’s aptly named Demonstration and the attention-garnering level-up EP that is 2018’s Creature of Habit, their latest batch for the inimitable Flatspot Records is yet another leap forward.

With members bridging the relative distance between Boston and Long Island, the collective members have split their time laying waste to stages in a litany of acts, notably Rain of Salvation, Soul Provider, and Hell of Self, among others. 

Admittedly, the band’s influences this go round were a bit further afield. Citing everyone from the down-tuned misery merchants Crowbar to the rarely cited '90s alt-metal band, Nothingface, Typecaste has added another layer to their punishment. While there are certainly moments of artfully crafted surprise herein, they’re still quite content to pummel in the vein of Vamachara, Division of Mind, and their release day partners in Orthodox.

This devastating live proposition is set to hit the road on Valentine’s Day with Sanction, Seeyouspacecowboy, and Vamachara. Be sure to share the love and bring some candy hearts, though the messages stamped therein might be a bit less saccharine.

It’s rarely a bad idea to sprint out of the gate, though “Memento Mori” dupes the listener with a 45 second slow build of noise. It’s flourishes of unease like this intro that make the whirlwind  breakdown riff hit so much harder. From there, the opening track incorporates a multi-layered approach, sitting comfortably alongside the Harm’s Way school of mechanized brutality. They pile guitar riffs atop each other with subtle touches lower in the mix. In much the way the track’s namesake points ominously towards a resignation to death, everyone’s true overlord, the song itself is a killer. 

Following an opener that acts as the logical sonic harbinger of death’s inevitability, we should have seen the second track coming. The EP’s lead single, “Traverse,” kicks off as the band is already mid song, wrestling with an impossibly thick wall of hardcore bludgeoning. It’s here, though, where they first employ a noted show of growth. From the vocal trade that wildly varies registers, they pair a higher registered and chaotic mania of piercing shrieks alongside the Jasta-esque brutalism attack of their previous work.

The midway point of this particular song unleashes a hellish soundscape that honors their reputation as a thrilling, decibel testing live act. The drums, at times, groove in straightforward fashion and, at others, rumble wildly through the bass and toms, all of which play like perfectly mixed punches to the sternum. It’s here they flash bits of instrumental nuance that shows their embrace of '90s alternative, albeit done in excruciatingly heavy fashion. 

Photo: Dan Gonyea

“Hypnagogic Hallucination” begins with what feels like a violent drum circle before it’s usurped by their now standard bearing bruiser of a riff. Not gonna front, I had to look up the meaning of the title but, if this is what something akin to the horrors of sleep paralysis is like, sign me up. The moments “between life," be them in slumber or in doubt, are oftentimes the truest representations of our actual selves, in my opinion. Typecaste, as desperate as they may seem to explore the depths of life’s less clearly defined mysteries, still present as a band fully aware of what they are. At its core, the EP is a hardcore record unafraid to reach further.

Elsewhere across the 4 tracks, they explore similar thematic terrain, mining everything from sleep, consciousness, and the great chasm separating us from the ultimate mystery that awaits us all when the light is, at last, extinguished. 

Photo: Rahul Raveendran

“Under the Wreath” finds Typecaste at their most ambitious, as it tours through their entire varied arsenal. They play with an urgency that, at last, meets it’s boiling point. As per usual, they switch wildly between levels of heavy a la their metallic hardcore forebears in Disembodied and others, but here they manage the ultimate bait and switch. The seemingly promised breakdown leads not to an explosion but a moving passage of desperation, highlighted by unexpected clean singing. The clean vocals are, dare I say, beautiful and affecting.

As the song moves along, the plaintive clean singing takes front row and the growl rides shotgun, acting as accent as opposed to primary executor of the band’s cold testament.

It’s a wonderfully executed moment that accomplished both menace and frailty. Free of affectation and plainly understood, it’s a daring move that makes an EP barely north of 10 minutes feel like a journey into uncharted territory... just don’t fall asleep.

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