Jesus Piece are hardcore darlings. Now signed to Century Media, the curiosity of what form they would take was at an all-time high. Could they capitalize on the good will built up with their debut Only Self, or would they become a watered-down version of themselves? We got some good news for y’all, and by ‘we’ I mean me and Dom who joined forces to bring you this long-form opinion of the highly anticipated album, …So Unknown. He is risen. Read on!
David: Hey Dom, how are you doing?
Dom: Hey David, I’ve just been struck down with my 3rd bout of COVID actually but generally not doing too badly at all. How’s it going over there for you?
David: Not bad, pal! Real sorry to hear about the COVID though. I can only hope it passes quick and that you’re able to occupy yourself with some fun things in the meantime… like a certain album we’re going to be talking about today?
Dom: Great! It’s not the first time so I just hope it’s quick and simple at least. Well, now that you mention it, COVID isn’t the only thing bringing the heat in this house today now I’ve been given some extra time with this new Jesus Piece album. I think it’s a certified ripper, don’t you agree?
David: I definitely do. I get Jesus Piece are a bit newer of a band, but even still my relationship with them is pretty short, only hearing of them with Only Self’s 2018 release. I really fell for their mix of raw, aggressive energy and catchiness – I’m of the opinion that …So Unknown ups the ante on that. What drew you to this band and their music initially?
Dom: 2018 itself feels like such a long time ago in hardcore and yet Only Self has really managed to hold its own. I actually found it to be a slow burn, where I found myself going back to it when I wanted that raw, aggressive energy. 5 years down the line, I’m refreshed to hear that they’ve spent a lot of time refining every single bit of their sound to create …So Unknown, even if I must admit I miss the industrial stylings of “I” and “II”.
David: That’s all very fair, and yes, five years is a hell of a long time to get your shit in order (when it was already quite solid really), but it seems like it’s paid off immensely as this is an exquisitely heavy album. Let’s dive into it! What were your first impressions of …So Unknown?
Dom: They don’t give you much time to gather any thoughts or consider any impressions whatsoever as “In Constraints” is a bludgeoning opener. Immediately you know exactly what you’ve let yourself in for, on one hand it’s carrying on where Only Self left off and on the other it’s an army with much sharper weaponry.
David: Yeah, like literally out the fucking gate, it’s just pummel this, nuke that with high-grade riffing and Aaron’s vocals are more serrating than ever. Absolutely wild opener. I know a lot of fans of heavy music get concerned when beloved bands sign to bigger labels as is the case here with Jesus Piece, but it doesn’t seem to have impacted them negatively whatsoever.
And can we talk a bit about that first single, “An Offering to the Night”? What a menacing introduction to contextualize your new album with. Came out last December, but within the context of this album, it’s one of the catchiest heavy songs I’ve heard this year so far.
Dom: Seeing big labels dabble in hardcore more often is always something that worries me a little, you never know how it’s going to end up but it’s refreshing to see that Century Media have let Jesus Piece really focus on what they wanted to do. Nothing is half-arsed, nothing is rushed and the whole album is the better for it.
I’d be delighted to, as soon as that one dropped I heard it as a statement of intent. It was clear to me exactly what …So Unknown was going from the outset and they delivered. As you say it just nails that balance of heavy and catchy at the same time. While being so crushing I love that it has the old-fashioned breakdown in the funk sense before the full hardcore part. Just really smartly put together as primitive as it can be at times. The singles all laid the foundation for the album, a bit closer to the start what do you make of “Tunnel Vision” too?
David: I didn’t hear “Tunnel Vision” until I got the whole album because, frankly, after I heard “An Offering to the Night” I was sold and just wanted the whole thing, but it’s a great track. I LOVE when the double bass drums kick in to fortify the main melody. It’s dark as fuck. Wonderful momentum that doesn’t let up. It’s remarkable how fierce Jesus Piece come off without feeling the need to get flashy or too weighty. Yes, there’s weight – always – but things still stay very mobile and energetic. That’s just their thing and it seems turned up to 11 here. What’s your take on this dick-puncher of a track?
Dom: It’s a real highlight for me. I love the tension of the intro with rumbling bass, reverb covered guitar and ride cymbal tapping. It’s a track that has so many parts and so many layers, it shows off so much of the instrumental prowess and Heard’s vocals throughout. It has attitude, atmosphere and it just hits. Absolutely everything a hardcore track needs delivered with signature Jesus Piece style. I think that’s what impresses me the most on the entire album, no other band in hardcore sounds like them or has that same way of expressing themselves. Drummer Luis Aponte has a DJ alter ego LU2000k and performed with Charli XCX on Saturday Night Live, Heard previously played bass for shoegaze mainstays Nothing and the whole band has noticeably broad musical backgrounds. While the sound is distinctly hardcore, the breadth of influence gives them a unique voice in the scene. What do you think sets them apart from their peers that makes …So Unknown so exciting?
David: It’s cliche, but there’s just such a keen sense of power with them. Everything is on 100% at all times, and with …So Unknown there’s not really any break to speak of. I’ve looped it several times paying no mind to where it began and ended because it’s so wildly consistent with what it does. The melodies are abundant as well as we’ve discussed already – it’s just a consummate hardcore record that still stands out among an already stand-out year for the genre. Maybe that’s all ironically due to the pedigree Jesus Piece’s members have around the music world too. There’s a lot to be said for variance and diversity in approach to music.
One quick shoutout I must do is “FTBS” which of course stands for ‘Fuck The Bullshit’. Now THERE’S a song with murderous intent. Ravenous riffs and mean vocals here really represent what you get across the whole album. No weak points, no left-field experimentation, no clean sections to speak of, this is just hard-fucking-core, major label be damned. You’re much more in tune with the genre and scene than I am though so maybe I’m a bit skewed here. I just like what I like!
Dom: There’s definitely a lot to be said about the variance and diversity when approaching music, it’s easy for bands to get caught up in what influences they should or shouldn’t be drawing on at a given time instead of what they want to put out as well. Jesus Piece are definitely a powerful band and, even being a consummate hardcore album, it certainly isn’t derivative of anything. It has hardcore riffs, hardcore vocals and a hardcore attitude but it all feels like theirs.
As is often the case at the moment, hardcore and the phrase ‘fuck the bullshit’ take me to spending any time on Twitter. Every week there seems to be a new stupid discourse around what is or what isn’t straight edge, whether band x or y should be ‘cancelled’ for having done z or the one that’s in my mind from last week is a lot of people taking issue with Mindforce saying that to be part of the scene you need to show up to shows and support the bands as if that was exclusionary. But, hell if Jesus Piece care. All they set out to do was deliver some crushing, exciting and melodic hardcore and I’d like to see anyone argue they’ve not managed to do that.
David: Yeah, that’s quite fair. “FTBS” seems to be a motto of sorts when it comes to the band’s general attitude and music alike. They’re from Philly too, a state in a region that churns out some of the hardest shit imaginable. Hard places make hard bands, or whatever the men’s rights weirdos say, am I right? Seriously though, that area is so rife with good talent it’s a green flag of sorts – oh, new band from the Philly area? Gotta check them out. I think Jesus Piece have been instrumental in keeping this canon going strong along with SOUL GLO, or hell, even more post-hardcore-ish acts like Rid Of Me or Low Dose deserve some credit too.
To wrap up my thoughts a bit here though, I’d say, as a fellow fan of Only Self, if you liked that album, this one should prove to be more of that in the sense that it’s more heavy, more melodic, more structured, more unrelenting. Sometimes, more is enough. It still barely breaks the half-hour mark as hardcore is wont to do so not a moment is wasted, there’s no filler, it’s just hard-ass hardcore to get spinkicked in the jaw to in the pit. RIP to anyone that gets atomized to …So Unknown. I’ll donate to the GoFundMe.
Dom: They definitely march to the blast beat of their own drum, something hardcore generally does but Jesus Piece have made it a calling card. Being from the UK I don’t have much of a connection to Philadelphia really but there always seems to have been a vibrant scene there, especially around the First Unitarian Church venue. As you say there are so many great bands coming out and Jesus Piece have been the spearhead for many years, …So Unknown will only further hammer it home for both local bands and ones from further afield. I’m particularly impressed by the new Scarab demo as well on the topic of Philly bands.
100% agreement from me, Jesus Piece have just ramped all parts of their many faceted attack. They definitely haven’t gone for a less is more approach and so they shouldn’t. A hardcore album lasting more than half an hour must be doing something special, but that isn’t to say that an album under half an hour can’t be special as is the case with …So Unknown. Be prepared to be sending on my behalf, Outbreak Fest is only two months away…
David: Bring a helmet, pal!
Band photos by Kayla Menze (body) and Phobymo (header)