Album Review: Baptists – “Bushcraft”

It’s not often I hear a release from Southern Lord that I don’t like, or at the very least appreciate for what it is. The Southern Lord roster is an impressive list of incredible musicians, and they’ve been signing some fresh talent lately that in no way ruins their remarkable reputation. One of the more recent Southern Lord signings is Baptists, a band that combines super-fast d-beats and sludgy guitars in a way that immediately brings Converge to mind. Far from being a rip-off or direct homage to the legendary metalcore act, Baptists manages to establish their own style, and bring another step of evolution to the sludgy hardcore sound that has become so popular in recent years.

There’s no doubt about it: the Vancouver-based hardcore outfit’s debut album Bushcraft is a relentless trip through a filthy, chaotic soundscape, and it won’t disappoint anyone who was expecting a noisy, challenging ride. The unmistakable mark of Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou’s production adds a layer of dirtiness to the album that darkens and enriches Baptists’ sound, far beyond what they achieved on their self-titled EP. No one can accuse the band of being the same old d-beat hardcore we’re used to hearing; they’re exploring much darker and more ominous regions of the genre than almost anyone else seems capable of.

Providing much of the ferocity that can be heard on this album is drummer Nick Yacyshyn, who previously played in an incredibly technical mathcore band called A Textbook Tragedy. His relentless energy gives Bushcraft an immensely strong backbone, upon which the rest of the album’s sonic landscape can be built. Over these punishing drums is a selection of incredibly sludgy guitar riffs, punctuated by the occasional screaming lead riff. To top the whole affair off are the grinding, harsh vocals, that again must be compared to those of Converge frontman Jacob Bannon’s. While they lack the crow-like sibilance of some of Bannon’s more intense efforts, Baptists’ vocals retain much of the guttural harshness and well-timed delivery that Converge excels at, and they add even more darkness and filth to Bushcraft – an already impressively dark-sounding album.

With a run time of just under half an hour, Baptists’ debut full-length wastes no time getting to the point, and that point is pure chaos and misanthropy. If there is a critique to be made of this album, it’s that at times it becomes almost too driving. The persistence of the fast d-beats and raging guitars begins to homogenize after a few tracks, and the album needs a bit more dynamism for the heaviest parts to have their fullest effect. Fortunately, the track “Still Melt” slows everything down for a bit in the middle of the album, and helps to achieve exactly the sort of dynamics that are required. Another slower track can be found closer to the end, in the form of “Soiled Roots.” More bits like this certainly would not go amiss.

Throughout this fantastic release, Baptists manages to straddle the line between traditional d-beat hardcore, and more metallic influences like Botch and Coalesce. There’s a dark energy present that definitely harkens back to some of the greatest early metalcore acts, and when combined with Baptists’ more contemporary hardcore influences, one is left with an album that will impress listeners who come from either side of the fence.

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