The essential purpose of an album review is to let you, beautiful reader, know why you should dedicate some precious listening time to an album. There’s so much music, old and new, to check out and there are only so many hours in the day that you can ignore your family before it becomes ‘negligence’, as my wife calls it. Why is Rile’s Pessimist worthy of your attention? Why should you gobble this up like a little greedy piggy?
Well, Rile has made it quite simple for people like myself. What if I tell you this is a hardcore punk band, a side project of Cult Leader bassist Sam Richards, and an album mixed by Mr. Kurt Ballou of Converge/GodCity Studios. You’d probably be shouting BINGO and, rightfully so, be well on your way to Bandcamp to get this in your ear holes.
Rile is more than a sum of keywords that would usually catch my attention when looking for some vile, heavy hitting hardcore in 2023. Pessimist is as ferocious as it is emotionally intelligent. Furious at the world to the point of breaking into tears. Rile want you to know they are pissed off and are screaming it in our faces throughout their debut LP.
“Dead End” kicks us off the Pessimist party, going from screeching feedback to frantic riffing in a matter of seconds, letting the listener know that this is the type of shindig where they are likely to lose a couple of teeth. Richards’ vicious yells and distorted riffs are backed up by a solid rhythmic backbone courtesy of Brian Fell (drums) and Matt Mascarenas (bass).
Stylistically, Rile have a lot more in common with KEN Mode, Botch, and Trap Them than they do to Cult Leader. “Climb Out” especially showcases the mix of dissonant and melodic hardcore elements that these bands have become known for. Fell’s drumming in particular is absolutely top notch on this track. Relentless fills are the driving force of this song.
The real shining points on Pessimist are where Rile shows another side to the hardcore punk element. Similar to the aforementioned bands, Rile has the ability to switch gears to explore their human emotions through songs like on “Hidden From Light” and “Stone Tapes” where the band slows down, yet still hits heavy.
“Stone Tapes” in particular is a welcome surprise. The listener gets a break from the audible equivalent of a half nelson and is allowed some time to really ponder their existence – and it’s obviously dreary. Somewhat grunge-y in style, “Stone Tapes” is the musical equivalent of a deep sigh to release pent up stress after coming to the realisation that everything is fucking pointless.
Richards’ monotone delivery of ‘We’re all breathing in poison’ seems like a comment on modern day life. All the negativity that we face day-to-day. From watching the news and seeing atrocities take place in other countries through to going online and absorbing people’s negativity as they argue about the most benign subjects. It’s all sullying our own headspace and making pessimists of us all.
Of course, after that much needed reflection, Rile swings back into the action, and, dare I say it, more pissed off in the last couple of songs of the album. “Half Love” feels like an extension of “Stone Tapes”, building from a slow, melodic riff and groovy rhythm that is a strong reminder that there is always calm before the storm.
And if the title track “Pessimist” isn’t a worthy storm to close this album, I don’t know what is. Furious, wide-eyed hardcore that is on the verge of a psychotic break takes the lead again. Rile are seemingly intent on showing that what they do best is creating emotion driven hardcore that has snippets of melody thrown in for good measure.
I’d be wrong to not bring up that a lot of what is on display on Pessimist isn’t necessarily pushing this genre of music forward. If you like Trap Them and KEN Mode, you’ll likely dig this. However, there are flashes that Rile has something special and I think that is in part due to the visceral emotions and the quality musicianship on display. Not many bands pull off this level of sincerity and in that way it’s a breath of fresh air – even if the air, according to Rile, is poisoned and we’re all doomed.