Growing up in rural Nebraska during the ‘70s and ‘80s, my hardcore knowledge was very limited. Until a kid moved to my small town from Kansas City, I was practically clueless other than what little I saw on MTV. He was a skater, and a bit of a problem child that moved around a lot, so his collection of albums and show flyers to me was pretty impressive. He introduced me to Bad Brains, Agent Orange, Cro-Mags, and the Dead Kennedys. Some of these bands stuck with me and helped me develop a taste for the core. For whatever reason, I had never been to a show dominated by these types of bands until earlier this year at the Heartland Throwdown in Omaha. There, one of the many bands that impressed me was Jesus Piece. The Philadelphia band had only released a couple EPs and split, but from their live presence you’d have never known it. In the midst of all their touring, they also found time to record a proper full album. Only Self comes to us via Southern Lord August 24, 2018.
Opening track ‘Lucid’ not only grabs you with its ferocity, but also its finger dragging shifts in tempo. This isn’t poor timing from drummer Luis Aponte, but deliberate missteps that force you to pay attention and break up the brutality. Each track on Only Self flows into the next, much like the Jesus Piece’s live set, never giving you a breather. With every track I can imagine vocalist Aaron Heard stalking the stage with his booming growls, along with David Updike (guitar), John Distefano (guitar), and Anthony Marinaro (bass) crushing in unison beside him. ‘Workhorse’ bleeds over to ‘Punish,’ which does exactly that. ‘Curse of the Serpent’ continues the bludgeoning, losing the start/stop beat and coming at you head on. ‘In the Silence’ “lightens” things up a bit by pulling back the tempo and using some longer, more drawn out guitar riffs. The slight doom break at the end is but a precursor. The same goes for the ambient wisps at the end of ‘Adamant.’ ‘Neuroprision’ features one of best and heaviest breakdowns of the record, which surprisingly are not overdone. ‘Dog No Longer’ is just more punishment leading up to the album’s final two tracks, ‘I’ and ‘II.’ ‘I’ is an ambient instrumental, and probably the furthest from anything you would expect at this point. It crawls into closer ‘II,’ a doomiest of doom funeral dirge, complete with cathedral echoes all around.
Only Self is not a never ending barrage of blastbeats, but a series of brutal combinations, much like getting your ass kicked by a well-rounded MMA fighter. Undoubtedly, due to constant touring, Jesus Piece have developed their sound into one to be reckoned with. Only Self is all the evidence they need to prove it.