Hardcore… it’s like the marmite of the punk scene (even more so than ska I feel, Colin – sorry); for the simple reason that whilst many will have encountered countless bands plugging away it can be very hard to be truly unique and stand out in such a niche and at times rigid scene. Consequently, when it’s done right it’s simply the best genre of music ever. Manchester’s Incisions clearly have this same attitude. Bliss, their second LP, is equal parts visceral, melodically angular and driven by an exceptional rhythm section that’s equal parts tight, structured and disciplined yet also able to seamlessly shift to a frenetic almost chaotic explosion when needed.
The first thing to say is Incisions play the kind of abrasive hardcore that you either love or hate. Personally it’s heyday era Indecision Records stuff that I adore (Life’s Halt / Carry On / Vorhees), with smatterings of the more straight up Black Flag racket you’d associate with the best of the Bridge 9 bands (Breathe In / early American Nightmare / Sworn In). Assuming you are familiar with these bands whose output was largely limited to a handful of releases a piece (with the notable exceptions of Vorhees and American Nightmare), you’ll be right at home!
Bliss kicks off with intense bass driven banger ‘You’re Not The Same’; a vitriolic 1:30 bombastic rant, that’s punctuated by a jaunty, angular guitar riff. It really sets the tone and over the next 20 minutes Incisions blast through a rabid, politically informed and socially aware collection that really helps them stand out against the backdrop of what can be a very poorly delivered pastiche of hardcore clichés.
‘Fuck The World’ clocks in at barely a minute and very much reminds me of Durham’s finest Vorhees, such is the intensity of the vocal delivery and the riffage on show, especially before the middle third of the song. It’s sharp, fast and punchy, giving way to perhaps one of the more structured and melodic songs on the album ‘Fighting Myself’. Complete with whoa-whoas and an excellent beat down at the end, it’s clearly destined for fan favourite status and dare I say is almost melodic-hardcore or skate punk in its delivery.
This opening trio showcase exactly what you expect to hear across the album, and they grab you instantly. The tropes and ideas presented in these songs appear across the rest of the album; although they become much more pronounced with ‘Repeat Prescription’ having some stand out moments via a well-constructed beat down, while ‘The Fluke’ makes use of a second lead vocal to add some depth to the choruses.
Where this particular subgenre of hardcore can lose its focus comes in its almost one dimensional approach to albums; they can appear very singular in terms of pace and length of songs. Again Incisions missed this memo and introduce some neat left turns on the album; demonstrating how creative the genre can be. ‘Back Of The Line’ is a borderline pop punk anthem and reminds me of UK legends Goober Patrol. The almost spoken word verses of ‘The Sweeney’ also introduce a new dynamic that helps keep the album fresh at the point where you might start to think things are too one dimensional. It’s these moments alongside the almost Billy Bragg or Frank Turner acoustic influenced ‘Better’ that really help hammer home the energy of the other songs whilst creating moments of reflection and consideration.
The album remains high quality throughout but probably the best songs are saved for the latter stages. ‘Broken Home’ is a hardcore masterclass, pitched beautifully alongside the aforementioned ‘Better’, and closing track ‘Insecure’ which brings the album to a close.
Overall Bliss is a cracking album, it’s perfectly balanced and structured. It’s angry, politically motivated and at times borderline disturbing such as references to the increased authority of the police who can no longer be identified in communities to the role mass media plays in the subjugation of minority groups. It’s this level of insight and vitriol that hardcore should have by its very nature and Incisions clearly live and breathe these values.
Finally I’ve compared Incisions to some of the best hardcore bands of the late 90s early 00s and that’s not in any way to make them sound like a nostalgia act, far from it. My personal view is the albums produced over that period of time remain some of my of all-time favourites and it’s certainly what I’d regard as a golden era of hardcore. Bliss taps into this era beautifully and helps push the envelope that little bit more in terms of where the genre can go next.
Pre-order Bliss on the TNSRecords webstore here.
Like Incisions on Facebook here.
This review was written by Richard Mair.