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Jonestown - Aokigahara Award winner

by Kyle Harding at 17 October 2016, 9:38 PM

What seems like something that has come and gone, has been making an astounding return; Britain’s hardcore scene. And one band has been making waves from the southern beaches of Brighton. Having only been formed a mere two years ago, JONESTOWN has come out swinging with their first full-length album that features some mad riffs, great composition, and technicality that most of their kind wouldn’t even dare attempt, putting them almost in the region of Technical Death Metal.

Of a group whose name rings with such a grim meaning, it seems only obligatory for them to make a record with tones just as haunting and blasts as brutal as the name itself implies. Their first full-length album ever, “Aokigahara”, does just that. Though JONESTOWN has hardcore influences in the way of their occasional breakdowns, vocalized shouts amidst growls and gutturals, and a little angst in their lyrics, it’s the intimidating skill of the guitar and off-beat rhythms that separate this band from all of their stage-diving neighbors and, quite frankly, one of the most original archetypes of a subgenre I’ve heard in a long time.

The guitars by Craig Radford vary between the trademark hardcore trouncing power chords and fast, challenging riffs to keep things tasty, all the while changing pace, tone, and using some odd notes that stand out from the rest of JONESTOWN. I find this to be an incredibly valuable mode of musicianship, as experimenting in this subgenre can be far and few. All the while, the drumming by Rich Owen stays equally technical and mind-blowingly flexible with full use of the kit, executing irregular double-bass to accentuate the polyrhythms rather than drive the tempo, whereas drumming the rest of the kit and splashes for a more rhythmic role. The bass by Tony Hardwick warbles with a massively deep pitch that rocks the foundation the drums and guitars stand upon, adding to the chaotic torrent. Finally, vocals by Harley Anderson are in a style of gutturals and shouts, not complicated in the way of lyricism and slower-paced in enunciation, in the way of a hardcore singer, but melts into the sound of the group with perfection.

Aokigahara” shifts between the hardcore, tech death, and everywhere in between with a seamless push-pull transition, with a few ambient segues as well. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Cenodoxus”, starting off simply powerful, picking up and flying as it goes on, which the vocals are the kind that one can scream aloud with, “I can see what you are!” This eventually rolls into the more skilled, kind of proggy mode with “Mass Extinction Six”, grooving with an arpeggio roll before dropping into a serious breakdown.

JONESTOWN has mastered a particular style and stick to it throughout the album, but “Aokigahara” never gets dry or boring- it pushes unrelentingly all the way through and incites a kind of fury that their name should bring. Overall, this release rips my face off in ways I didn’t quite expect. Technical, groovy hardcore? Something I never thought I’d say… I loved it regardless. The recording quality was great, encapsulating necessary roughness needed for their performance, while the composition and delivery were absolutely spot-on. This band has really set a new bar for first efforts. Now let’s see what the rest of Britain has in the hardcore underground.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Deliverance
2. Cenodoxus
3. Borderline
4. Mass Extinction Six
5. Aokigahara
6. Apres Moi
7. The 33rd Parallel
8. Deadweight
Harley Anderson - Vocals
Craig Radford - Guitar
Tony Hardwick - Bass
Rich Owen - Drums
Record Label: Seige Music


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