Grime from about 100 shoes sticks to my carpet burned arm as I am pulled up off the torn carpet squares and pushed back into the pit. Sweaty, bruised, and fueled by a cappuccino, I know nothing in this moment but noise and speed, the raw emotion of hardcore punk and being able to attend an all ages show in 2002 at a little coffee shop with an owner who turned his head at the very obviously underage smokers: freedom from parents, school, and judgement. This is the era of thrift store t-shirts, swooped hairdos, and At The Drive-In fanaticism. There are handbills and zines being passed around after the set, kids from another school share inside jokes as they tell me about the next show. I make sure my crushed pack of Marlboro Reds are hidden in my pocket as my friends and I step out into the cool Midwest air and wait for our ride back home. We have been reborn.
That feels like a lifetime ago, but the opening track of A Second Release by Riversleem threw me right back to that place. Blending old school metalcore, screamo, and touches of thrash and grind, Saskatchewan punks Riversleem pick up the torch for a new generation. They aren’t alone in this scene revival, but peers like Portrayal of Guilt have gone almost fully metal and SeeYouSpaceCowboy have cozied up to the poppier side of sasscore. Riversleem land somewhere in the middle, playing fast paced, agile, and emotional hardcore with enough intensity to get the metal kids rowdy calling to mind Orchid and Pageninetynine.
Formed in 2019, Riversleem have only released one previous 7” fittingly titled A Debut Release By Riversleem as well as live album, A Live Debut by Riversleem, with their latest featuring songs written and recorded from 2020-2023. A Second Release doesn’t deviate far from Debut, but the riffs, hooks, and songwriting feels tighter. Hopefully, with pandemic shutdowns behind them, the momentum continues. We all deserve this kind of fun in our lives.
“Eating Teeth” kicks off the EP with a few seconds of noise before sharp guitars and shrieking vocals herald in the rhythm section into a breakneck trade off of riffs that bounce between Refused’s hookiness and thrash metal’s verse vamping before launching into a swift guitar solo that bridges into the crowd-killing, breakdown ending of downstrokes and feedback and screams. It is a powerful combination of sounds in two short minutes that begs for a frantic mosh session.
The next two tracks slow things down in parts, only to amplify the frenetic energy when the velocity takes off again. Drummer Kurt Wolfe is a monster on “Hammer”, switching patterns like a desperate football coach. Guitarist Drew Fitzgerald and bassist Connor Guillet throttle through menacing riffs. Kyle Zurevinsky’s vocal performance sounds like fragments of incisors are caught in his throat in the best way possible.
“Antispore” closes out the EP and is the longest song Riversleem have released at over four minutes. It is a reworking of “Lenore” from their live album. The opening riff and mid paced rhythms are made for headbanging before the heavy gets dialed back to a classic emo vibe, building on the motif set by the opening riff until a nasty bass fill launches the track to its immaculate gallop of a finale. The formula is straightforward, but it pays off in dividends.
Overall, this project feels like it could have happened anytime in the last 20 years and would have turned heads. Fitzgerald also handled the engineering and mixing. Each instrument has room to shine and be heard, favoring a clean and organic sound. As much as old heads will find joy in these tracks, it is comforting to know that younger generations have a band like Riversleem to make those pivotal show memories. Few hardcore or metal releases make me want to stage dive and thrash around involuntarily anymore, but A Second Release by Riversleem dared me not to.