At The Drive-In

Relationship of Command

Written by: PP on 22/06/2016 23:30:36

Sixteen years ago At The Drive-In released what is arguably the greatest post-hardcore album in history, the legendary "Relationship Of Command". Today, it is considered to be a generational masterpiece, an album that defined an entire genre and influenced a plethora of other key artists that helped define post-hardcore during the 2000s. The likes of Thursday, Saosin, Bear vs. Shark and not least The Fall Of Troy were each influenced in different ways by this record, audible in particular on "War All The Time", "Translating The Name EP", "Right Now, You're In The Best Of Hands...", and "Doppelgänger", respectively.

Each band channeled the explosive cocktail of cacophonic screams, chilling atmospherics, erratic time signature shifts, unconventional guitar melodies, and unadulterated rage in a variety of different ways ranging from the blistering fretwork of The Fall Of Troy to the haunting emotive atmospheres of Thursday. It was truly a breakthrough moment for the band that, coupled with violent live performances that later inspired The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Chariot's equivalent styles, were standing on the top of the world where everything seemed possible. "This station is non-operational", they announced only six months after the release of the record, citing internal stylistic differences and "complete mental and physical exhaustion", and disbanded in March 2001.

What they left behind is a legacy that even to date is unmatched stylistically. A totally unique expression, "Relationship of Command" balances Latino temperament manifesting in emotive, yet nonsensical lyrical universes and pure, unadulterated rage at unpredictable moments against a grandiose experimentalist approach, where effects pedals and electronics are utilized in a manner that was unheard of at the time of release. With brief interjections of Latin music influence in the midst of ferocious screams and odd time signatures, the band appear all over the genre map but always circle back to the raw urgency and coarse, razor-sharp vocals that have come to define post-hardcore. "Enfilade" is one such example, where weird atmospherics are dueling against off-tune screaming in a soundscape rammed with sudden bursts of anxiety and eruptions of raw energy just when you least expect them. "Sleepwalk Capsules", on the other hand, features one of the most explosive openings you'll ever hear on a record, leveling its listener with palpable urgency and chaotic guitar melodies that offer first-hand insight into the complex sonic universe of the band.

In a polar opposite move, "Invalid Litter Dept." and "Quarantined" are explorative pieces, where the chaos and off-tune cacophony of tracks like "Arcarsenal" and "Cosmonaut" is replaced by an almost progressive and indie-flavored soundscape, demonstrating the huge variety of structure, form, and tones that "Relationship Of Command" has to offer. With spoken-word approach to vocals and high-pitched "Dancing on the corpses" interruptions, the creativity and originality of the band is on full display here, with brief moments of classical piano contesting for space amidst buzzsaw guitar melodies and Cedric Bixler's piercing wails. "Quarantined", in particular, merges raw post-hardcore ferocity with deliberate experimentalism that echoes Incubus on their later experimental albums in the mid-2000s, underlining how far-reaching "Relationship of Command"'s influence was during the 2000s.

And all of that is without even naming the smash hit "One Armed Scissor", a complex, chaotic piece that somehow manages juuuust enough polish to have made it on MTV and into radio rotation, despite its crazed screams and unorthodox guitar melodies. "Pattern Against User", likewise, is a generational classic, making an utter mockery of being in tune and writing accessible music. Bixler's wails vs. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's innovative riffs create a dynamic at the verge of explosion from sheer urgency and immediacy, which is as infectious as it is fiery and abrasive. And speaking of which - the ferocious final screams of "Arcarsenal" are exactly that: throaty and coarse to the extent that extensive damage to vocal chords is to be expected should you try this at home.

Unusual rhythmic patterns. Latin influence meets emotional delivery and near-metallic, distortion-laden guitar texture. A sound that not a single entity has been able to imitate for sixteen years and going. Thirteen tracks of the most brilliant insanity you'll come across without a single weak link. Enough variety and innovation to occupy an entire career. Nope, the praise for "Relationship of Command" doesn't end there. That is why it is one of the greatest albums ever released, a staple and a benchmark in post-hardcore that all releases even today are still compared against, a perfect album no matter which angle you view it from.


Download: Arcarsenal, Pattern Against User, Sleepwalk Capsules
For the fans of: Thursday, Bear Vs Shark, The Fall Of Troy, Drive Like Jehu, Glassjaw
Listen: Facebook

Release date 12.09.2000
Grand Royal

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