Hardcore-punk has probably influenced more subgenres of metal than one might realize. Thrash, black metal, grindcore, crust, and even death metal, the genre has been a juggernaut in the creation of music, with a lot of genres pulling from hardcore’s uncompromising attitude and fighting ferocity. What is always more interesting is how long the genre has fought against the incorporation of metal into its sound. And while that has been a minority of listeners, it seems like all these years later fighting that fight is nothing but foolish. The metallic bands have been winning for years.
Newark, Delaware metallic hardcore unit Year of the Knife has been turning heads for a few years now. Even if one has not heard of them, if one listens to bands like Jesus Piece, Knocked Loose, or Code Orange, their name has likely been dropped. Year of the Knife was even supposed to support Code Orange on a tour earlier this year that has since been canceled, for obvious reasons. And although that was brought to a screeching halt, the band’s debut Internal Incarceration.
In keeping with the spirit of previous releases, Year of the Knife is a hardcore band through and through. Though one that pulls heavily from the realm of death metal like a lot of metallic hardcore bands. The involvement of Kurt Ballou’s GodCity Studios should be of no surprise when one takes a listen to this record. If there’s someone that knows how to bring out a death metal sound in any band and liberally apply it to any metallic genre, he is the guy. And pulling the best possible sound out of Year of the Knife here is exactly what he did. Internal Incarceration is a fantastic sounding album, balancing that death metal sound but ultimately achieving a jaw shattering hardcore effect.
Thematically, Internal Incarceration is an album that deals with loss and addiction from the perspective of someone who is straight edge. Watching people struggle to exist through escapism and often losing to it is something even non-straight edgers can relate to, and over thirteen tracks Year of the Knife is relentless about hammering in the issue. The album waivers through anger at watching the battle be loss, keeping the strength to not become another statistic, and what it all means. For some, it may come across as preachy as it is a touchy subject, but one that nevertheless deserves discourse. The heaviness of the music matches this well and brings out the struggle in a lot of the lyrics, something that hardcore has often been good at. That is not to say that some bands have not cheesed the hell out of this, and thankfully Year of the Knife is not one of them.
Musically, Year of the Knife hit the right notes. The approach is ultimately hardcore but the band is extremely heavy and metallic. It is the kind of thing that brings the mosh and crowd surfing hard. If one could see them in a live setting it would doubtless be a crushing show. However, Internal Incarceration does not have a lot of standout tracks, rather it has more of a standout sound. When the album is going, it is hard and great. But even after six listens (going on seven) it is easy to confuse or distinguish tracks. An old school sounding bit of thrash here, a nice dose of death there—it works, but there is not much variety. Internal Incarceration gets going very quickly, kills it for just over thirty minutes, and then exits stage left. It is a good record while it is on but does not command repeat listens.
Those already into metallic hardcore, and especially those into straight-edge, are going to like this album regardless of what has been written here. Good. Internal Incarceration is a good record. Year of the Knife have their sound and approach down, and I will not be surprised when their next album is eons above this one. Until then, these are some promising beginnings with some dark themes.