Rare by Hundredth: Shoegaze meets Hardcore

The album, Rare, by Hundredth is a unique concept. A melodic-hardcore band realizes that their sound doesn’t reflect their musical tastes, and make an effort to shift their focus from hardcore to shoegaze. This change brings them an intensity that the dream-pop genre tends to shy away from. Tracks like “Vertigo”, “White Squall”, and “Youth” are all very much post-punk, dream-pop ditties that are solid shoegaze with some edge. But ultimately, Hundredth seems to lack the nuances that drive shoegaze, and the sound suffers because of it.

While most dream-pop might bring to mind positive imagery such as rainbows and beaches, Rare shoots for more of a nightmare-ish feel, with lyrics such as “False hope/Spreads like a disease/The curtain is drawn/ And there’s no shepherd for the sheep” from the song “Disarray,” played over a soundscape featuring heavily distorted guitars, blaring power chords, and aggressive drum beats.

It is surprising just how well the band’s darker tone fits with the shoegaze sound. Hardcore and shoegaze seem like opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but Hundredth has really found a sweet spot where shoegaze reverb and hardcore’s intensity can meld together and create something uniquely enjoyable. Tracks like “Suffer” and “Hole” really showcase this hybrid sound.

Rare is a solid album, but it is impossible to shake the feeling that this is not the band’s full potential. Shoegaze, as a genre, has surprising depth with the diversity of emotions and sounds it can encompass and Hundredth just hasn’t quite mastered it. At a certain point, the songs all meld together in the worst way possible; there is little variation and that’s what really limits Rare. Somewhere in the album’s forty-five-minute run-time, the album loses its nuance. “Down” and “Chandelier” might start differently, but ultimately, they all become variations of the same song, just with different lyrics and slightly different chord progressions.

With Rare, Hundredth shows a lot of promise for the road ahead, and if you’re already a fan of the band, this album, while a massive departure from the rest of their discography, isn’t going to disappoint you. However, for everyone else, it’s a mixed bag. Tracks like “Vertigo”, “ Disarray ”, and “ Suffer ” are inventive and strong, but as a whole, the album just leaves a lot to be desired. My recommendation: go check it out because there is a lot to love, just don’t expect to fall in love with Rare as an album because the “pieces” aren’t all there yet.

Bite Back: Not a Saint or a Savior

Chalk full of barrowing guitar tones and existential dread that plummet nose first into your ear canals, this EP from the San Diego based hardcore outfit Bite Back is a brutal encounter. Five blistering songs fill this EP with lyrics of having to cope with nihilism, depression, and anxiety complimented with pounding guitars and breakdowns reminiscent of the mental beatings such a mind deals with—it isn’t pretty.
The songs on this album are very grim—they cater to a very esoteric demographic with Austin Bolechowski’s straightforward vocal and lyrical delivery that paints the band for who they are. The EP opens with “Day By Day”—it starts with an intense buildup of guitars and drums over the closing monologue from the character Patrick Bateman from the film American Psycho. It all gives way to Josh Orellana’s high velocity drumming then the rest of the band jumps into the sea of despair with Bolechowski’s opening lyrics, “Always struggling day by day, can’t ever think of what to say, trying to keep my head held high, but I just count my failures every night.”
The EP continues on with hints of groove, thrash, and sludge metal built in on their hardcore foundation all while keeping on the themes of mental anguish. “Sinner” hurtles a plethora of riffs with alternating vocals that range from controlled yells to high pitched screams with hair-raising lyrics like “I’ve been thinking thoughts that’d make the devil want to kill himself!” “Stray Dog” (appropriate for the band’s name) delves into the isolation side of depression with reoccurring lyrics like “I’ll live on my own, I’ll die on my own, these motherfuckers couldn’t spend a god damn night all alone,” and “I’m a mutt with rotting teeth, decayed like my fathers’ before me!” but the most tumultuous lyrics are sung during the breakdown—“What the fuck do you know about pain? You never lost anything!”
The EP takes a two-and-a-half minute breather with “Lull”—a sluggish, more somber number with more melodious vocals that still doesn’t steer the album off course. After a brief pause it traverses into the closing track with Bolechowski bellowing its moniker “Numb!” “Numb” pummels to a close with a beatdown of everything in Bite Back’s musical arsenal with the final lyrics “No puedo ser fuerte, lo que me mata es mi mente!” (“I cannot be strong, what kills me is my mind!”)
Bite Back’s Not a Saint or a Savior is destructive and incredibly brutally honest—these boys don’t hesitate to wear their hearts on their sleeves. The lyrics sum up a lot of key themes with depression and anxiety and the music is the perfect match, stimulating feelings of a mind at war with itself.