Dublin hardcore is a movement that is oft-overlooked, but its raw power is so resonant that fans of the broader hardcore punk sound or those with a fondness for the harder side of the Irish music scene can testify to how ultimately rewarding its hidden treasures can be.
Within such a niche market, Crows stand out as one of the most brutal. Their music falling on the heavier, darker side of the hardcore punk spectrum, the band’s 2011 album ‘Severance’ was chock-full of dissonant, atonal guitar riffs; guttural, bile-laden vocals; ferocious lyrics; relentless, pounding rhythms and thought-provoking film samples (not to mention the grotesque album artwork).
On ‘Better off Dead’, we get more of the same from Crows in an altogether more straightforward manner but with twice as much hate and vinegar. The twisting and turning time signatures on ‘Severance’ are gone and in their place a refined, pummelling intensity throughout the album’s ten tracks with a paradigm so incredibly bleak and world-weary that it may evoke post-traumatic stress disorder in the listener.
The lyrics range from being vaguely political, violent, thought provoking and at times – in a strange way – relatable. Take the closing lines from Enter the Crownado for example: “You say you’re sick of the cults, and live in fear of a rapist fucking church – well try deal with the Irish public.”
The band eschew clever wordplay in favour of sheer face-value brute force, like on the title track “I hate my job. And when I’m in work I want to knife my boss and mince my own head”. It may not look clever, but it sounds big.
Such nihilism is complimented with a perfectly suitable soundtrack: sludgy, thick as molasses guitar tones played in abominable, deafening bursts. Of the decade of tracks present, only three exceed the three-minute mark; so there’s no time for boredom. This is loud, fast and spit-screaming in your face hardcore.
Closing track Death Crownado takes the band down an interesting path, in this regard. A nine-minute epic, Crows add some stoner/doom riffs and earworming chord progressions to the mix. Though the tempo does take a downturn, the intensity is not lost and the album is brought to a fitting, dystopian close.
As far as grievances go, there are few to air (the album airs enough for everybody, ever) save for the occasional, unavoidable hardcore trope. A pick-slide here, a breakdown there. All in all, if you have yet to discover the delights of Dublin hardcore, Crows have produced here a fitting introduction and a solid album in and of itself.