The first thing that led me to this latest Under the Pier record was the almost unanimous praise it received before, and then after, release. Upon listening to it, I must say that I’m kind of confused. Similarly to (but not as disproportionately) the praise the new Frontierer record got, it really doesn’t feel justified, well, to me, at least. Right off the top of my head, there are other records that have deserved more praise within the chaotic hardcore/mathcore area from the past few months, like Pacmanthemovie‘s Pacmanthemovie 2: Eat Lives, or fallfiftyfeet‘s Twisted World Perspective, to name a couple.
Anyway, I’m not saying it’s a bad record, or anything like that. For all intents and purposes, An Exercise in Discontent is a solid album from Under the Pier, but to me it doesn’t seem like it makes any kind of creative use of the mathcore medium. Firstly, it feels like the songs sort of melt together when listening to the album back to back a few times. I honestly have a hard time telling which is which, because there aren’t many distinguishing moments when comparing them. Then, when taking the record as a whole, it feels too consistent, there’s not enough variety in the riffs and the melodic layer on top. It all sort of blends together as a collection of hard chugs with lots of panic chords in between.
The vocal delivery also seems to stay within these lines, not really creating any kind of variety or dynamic. In that sense, there isn’t much engagement value besides the hard-hitting nature of the compositions. The employed grooves also seem to mimic one template and follow in that general line, without expanding in any way. Now, to offset some of this ‘negativity’, let’s look at the ending of “Fabulous”: it’s a great example of the approach that could’ve benefited the other tunes a little more. As we near the two-minute mark, there’s a nasty ostinato riff that’s very neatly contrasted with the screeching guitar on top. It has a very nice rolling feel, making you legitimately headbang, offering weight as well as groove. This opposes the ending of “Left in the Lurch”, which employs the ‘nasty riff but slower’ trick with a reprise of the opening dissonant lick over it; this one feels like it just lacks something to make it really pop.
You could more or less draw similar comparisons for lots of bits across the record. As aforementioned though, it’s far from a weak album. There’s enough in there for fans of the genre to keep things going and it would definitely work well in a mathcore/chaotic hardcore playlist. It’s just that there isn’t anything particularly outstanding about any of the songs. They also don’t have any especially memorable bits – something you will be inclined to recall, or something to recognize quickly upon hearing it.
I guess Under the Pier still have some work to do in terms of refining their songwriting craft. Along with the performance potential present, improving on that would seriously elevate the band in my view. I will say that they certainly check all the boxes for a proper band in this niche, having the frantic energy, the explosive delivery, and all that. Since they’re only in their incipient stage as a band, I have hopes that we’ll see them improving and going further, as well as taking certain risks in order to achieve future greatness in the genre.