A389 Recordings has a reputation for noisy, harsh punk and hardcore releases. Looking at the song titles on “Every Tongue Shall Caress” by The Love Below—which include “Nazi Uniform”, “Rotten Fruit from A Shitty Tree”, “Social Fuck Disease” and “Xanax Piñata”—you’d get the idea that this isn’t going to be easy listening.
And you’d be right. In fairness, if you’re more into the whole David Yow-ling vocal style than I am you will be more likely to groove with T.L.B. vocalist Jerry Wayne Woolbright Jr.’s abrasive screech. He makes Doombox-era Graf Orlock sound like Luther Vandross… (And I cannot figure out how singers like Adele end up needing throat surgery while extreme stylists like Mr. Woolbright can make it through more than two shows in a row. Some university medical center laryngology department: let’s get on this study, shall we? Strange phenomenon…) I do find that when vocals tip past “unhinged madman” into “sore throat” (not the grindcore band) they distract from the rest of the music, but your results may vary.
It’s not just the vocals that will break up your mellow mood—addiction, abuse, political repression: the lyrics are relentlessly downbeat too. That’s about par for the course for this style, though, and no points added or subtracted for it as far as this reviewer is concerned.
Of course, hardcore/powerviolence/grind (they do overlap considerably lately within the “scene” or whatever it’s called, as they do somewhat on “Every Tongue Shall Caress”) is not just about the vocals, and The Love Below show themselves capable of all the aggression and stop/start ensemble playing that are hallmarks of these subgenres. The riffs are energetic, the guitar tone is crunchy, and the overall performance is passionate.
The question is, are the strengths here enough to make this record worth your time? For passionate aficionados of underground hardcore the answer could well be “yes.” For the rest, there are more impactful releases to lend your ears to.
Next time I’m at the Hardcore Taco Shop I’ll skip the Xanax piñata offered by The Love Below and take an order of Weekend Nachos to go instead.