Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace

Written by: PP on 18/07/2012 05:59:13

"Aggression" was one of the greatest hardcore albums of the previous decade. Anyone who's heard the album will attest to that, because it felt like the work of a genius. It breathed new life into the hardcore scene that was busy pounding itself into saturation through meaningless breakdowns, uninspired riffs, and bland songwriting, through an approach to the genre that had been attempted before but never perfected in the way that Verse did in back in 2008. Slow-tempo hardcore, a style almost completely devoid of unnatural breakdowns and monotonous songwriting had finally seen the light of the day, with clear inspiration from the much faster and heavier releases by Bane and Comeback Kid in the past. It was a progressively tuned record, one that often shunned breakneck speed songs if it meant for a more impressionist and more intelligent atmosphere overall. No wonder the record caused quite a stir within the hardcore movement, and consequently the disappointment was massive when Verse announced imminent breakup only two years later.

But clearly, Verse weren't done just yet. After a few reunion shows where the band successfully recreated the inimitable passion and their uncompromising attitude to ignoring the trends within hardcore. The band found it in them to write at least one more album. That album is "Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace". It's not as good as "Aggression", but it's damn close. It's a logical continuation of the progressive hardcore the band exhibited on that album, except they've taken it a step further, where almost every song is unusually low tempo for the genre, instead relying on progressive instrumentation and some out-of-this-world lyricism to make an impression.

And an impression, well, that's exactly what the album makes. It's a beautiful amalgamation of the incredibly serious topics within hardcore into a melodic, yet moshable platform of instrumentation that each contrast each other in just the right way. The way I like to put it, Verse bring beauty and melody back into regular hardcore much in the same way as Comeback Kid and Bane did it for hardcore punk; they are the purveyors of a unique, fresh voice within a genre that has been in a desperate need for one in the past ten to twelve years at least. It's also a loosely connected concept album, told from the perspective of a girl who's suffered every negative aspect of life imaginable, who has subsequently overcome her struggle and as such offers her perspective on life in general. It's a serious, but creative concept that really allows Verse's primary strength, vocalist Sean Murphy to shine through his creativity and heart-wrenching lyricism that should hit home with almost anyone listening. And since every Verse album is really about Murphy's amazing vocal talent, it feels only natural to quote some of his best work on "Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace" to make the reader really understand just how awe-inspiring this guy's lyrical universe is:

"She watched us all put a price tag on anything we could. Her gifts neatly repackaged and presented in a way that is entirely misunderstood:" - here a brief reference to the omniscience of mother nature.

"Tripping up on every crack in the pavement, we're humbled by failure and defined by an unkown greatness. [...] We're barefoot to the world of broken glass, bleeding for a love that lasts." - from "Setting Fire To The Bridges We Cross"

"Understand that you will meet death before actual death" from "The End Of All Light"

These are but excerpts from songs with grander lyrical meaning, songs with astonishing lyricism that puts most of today's bands to shame. Whether it's subdued commentary on today's society, or some more abstract and stream-of-consciousness type of speech, Murphy really establishes himself as one of the most important lyricists hardcore has seen to date, a notion that was already put forward by both "Aggression" and 2004's "Rebuild" before. And it's not just the lyrical content, but the way that they are delivered with. You'll hear few vocalist scream their lungs out in the same punishing manner as him, who are able to simultaneously stress the most important lines in their songs by intricately adjusting the tempo, the rhythm, and the strength of their vocals to match the content so perfectly. You only need to hear the album's lead single "The Selfless Of The Earth" to feel the emotional intensity, the raw, unadulterated passion that has gone into the writing of this album, all culminating into the uncompromising screams of "So here's another lesson from a broken home passed on" in the end. This is stuff that comes straight from the heart.

Basically, "Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace" sees Verse show how melody, progressive songwriting, and creative approach to tempo and vocals can lead into a unique, fresh sound, even while they reference hardcore punk bands like Comeback Kid and Bane in the process. Put those two in a blender with Have Heart, Champion, and Modern Life Is War, and you have a shoe-in for the best hardcore album in 2012, and a possible candidate for the album-of-the-year.


Download: The Selfless Of Earth, Setting Fire To The Bridges We Cross, The End Of All Light, The End Of All Life
For the fans of: Bane, Comeback Kid, Have Heart, Ruiner, Champion, Modern Life Is War
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.07.2012
Bridge Nine Records

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