Band of Mercy, Conquest
I’d always wondered what happened to the guys from once-iconic, ultra-political Houston hardcore band Die Young (er, sorry — Die Young (TX), that is; I completely forgot about that idiotic lawsuit). They were one of those bands that I always meant to get more familiar with but just dropped the ball on. By the time I picked up 2008′s Through the Valleys In Between, the band was seemingly already on its way out. Damn.
Of course, hardcore bands don’t ever really break up — they just splinter off and form new bands, and that’s apparently exactly what happened here. After Die Young collapsed, frontman Daniel “Rev. White Devil” Albaugh and drummer James Rynearson decided to pull together a new crew (which also includes ex-Seeker guitarist Gjared Robinson and bassist Eric), similarly political but more aimed on promoting their vegan ideals. (Which makes some sense, considering Albaugh’s day job at peta2, the youth-oriented arm of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)
While that might sound limiting, after several listens, I have to say that I think it works, possibly better than Die Young ever did (what I heard of ‘em, anyway). Rather than cobble together a scattershot bunch of sociopolitical messages about a whole slew of topics, or even about a general area, like Die Young did with religion on Graven Images, Band of Mercy tightens the focus down ’til it’s bright and hot, laser-like, on animal rights and veganism.
Hell, they even went so far as to name themselves after the precursor to the Animal Liberation Front. Instead of being Politico-Punk Band #23642, these guys have instead built their collective house in the neighborhood of old-school straightedge bands like Earth Crisis, Strife, or Shelter. And again: it works.
Musically speaking, new six-song EP Conquest is closest to the former than either of the latter, with Albaugh’s snarled, vitriolic, confrontational lyrics about eating vegan, spaying and neutering dogs, and fucking (no, really) riding over a surging wave of metalcore sound. Albaugh and Robinson’s guitars have a thrash-y edge to them that I’m liking quite a bit — with an almost Metallica-esque bit of melancholy folk guitar right at the start of “Eat To Win,” even — married to speeding, thundering hardcore rhythms.
The aforementioned “Eat To Win,” by the way, is probably my favorite track on here, in spite of the fact that the cynical bastard inside of me wants to snicker each time Albaugh howls out, “Fruits and nuts and seeds!” In other hands, the song’s subject matter could very well fall flat — I mean, c’mon, just look at the song’s title — but I can’t help but marvel at the sheer level of dedication these guys have. They’re true believers, no doubt, and that level of conviction is impressive to witness.
The rest of the EP fares pretty damn well, too, from the furious, insanely short (less than a minute long) facepunch of “You Must Hate Yourself” to the spiraling solo(!) in “Building A Culture” to the oddly-accented vocals in “Feral Nights,” which I think is about ripping all your clothes off and screwing out in the darkened woods, although I’m not completely positive about that. The pace is frantic throughout, leaving barely a moment to breathe between explosive blasts of hardcore fury.
I should note, by the way, that I’m enjoying Conquest as a non-vegan — although I’m definitely an animal lover and oppose animal testing and cruelty to animals in general, I’m not a convert to the cause, myself. That said, the more I read about Albaugh (who’s a ridiculously smart guy and writes columns for various magazines and Websites about being vegan) and his crew, the more intriguing the whole veganism idea becomes.
Which I guess is the whole point behind the band and the EP to begin with; strange as it may seem to say about music this fast and raw and heavy, Conquest has definitely got me thinking.