BAND: Combative Post (Korea)
RELEASE: Whiteout (2020)
REVIEWER: Arthur Urquiola
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To endure for close to four decades, bands in the Hardcore genre, on all levels, both old and new have maintained loyal followings around the world from either keeping it real for purists, mining new extremes of heaviness, speed or intensity, or by incorporating new elements to evolve their sound. While Hardcore’s reach and infiltration into popular heavy music, scene culture and wider youth culture has ebbed and flowed, it has remained a constant presence by changing and evolving the same way Metal also does. Not only do the two genres share similarly diverse histories, with both sprouting countless sub-genres, but the argument could be made that Hardcore has crossed over with Metal more than it has done with its parent genre of Punk Rock.
With the song ‘Whiteout’ – the titular and introductory track of South Korean Hardcore quartet Combative Post‘s new record, a wall of reverberated and mournful guitars immediately conjures the blackened Shoegaze of Deafheaven. It’s a dark and ominous vibe which will go on to colour much of their tunes here and position this collection of songs in the same “Dark Hardcore” sphere with contemporaries like Jesus Piece, Palm, Full Of Hell and All Pigs Must Die. However, precisely halfway into the track the band transitions into a lurching stomp which is more Trustkill than Deathwish, reaching a crescendo that dissolves into modulated screams and feedback. It’s an introduction that’s cinematic in scope and ambition.
‘Against The Odds’ is far more immediate and lyrically direct. Over drummer Zinman’s ferocious blastbeats, vocalist Kyuyoung balances his calls for the destruction of unjust systems with a collective uprising against oppression. In a scratch over two minutes, the band grinds, two-steps and bursts into a climactic coda which could have fit on The Opposite of December… but is additionally held up both by melodicism and an airy, almost ambient depth in production that stops it becoming claustrophobic.
For a record that has only two out of its 10 songs breaching the three-minute mark, Combative Post makes no wasted movements. In another rhythmic shift, ‘Hell…It’s chosen’ builds up to a thrashing, Hardcore Punk intensity. While gang vocals are prominent throughout the disc, it’s the first track on Whiteout to feature a guest vocalist – Chris Gursong Yoo from Noeazy, whose growl provides a distinct contrast to Kyuyoung’s shredded screams.
With washes of echo and guitar feedback, ‘Hate Speech’ showcases the heft and dynamics of hard hitting rhythm section Zinman and bassist Jehak, before guitarist Ilwoo rejoins them to lock into a chugging groove with pinch harmonics which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pantera record. ‘By Yourself’ was recently released as a single to herald the arrival of Whiteout. It’s a standout moment with a hope-crushingly heavy and discordant post-breakdown breakdown that borders on Sludge.
‘Farewell To My Dreams’ features the most distinctively melodic hooks thus far via Ilwoo’s riffage as well as some anthemic gang vocals. ‘Poser’ could almost be considered straightforward in relation to how many different directions the other songs pull the listener towards, but it shows the band venturing into yet another new kind of composition. With a slightly slower mid-tempo backbeat and less discombobulating transitions, it kinda “rocks”. Lyrically, ‘Poser’ is a violent diatribe against inauthenticity featuring more guest vocals from someone else Combative Post has crossed paths with in their decade-plus as a band, this time it’s Turn Of Our‘s Heeyeon Lee.
‘Whatever It Takes’ is Converge meets Crossover Thrash while ‘I Won’t Be Tainted’ has a BL’AST!/Black Flag drive before incorporating ’90s Bounce and more blastbeats. ‘The Identity’ starts with riffs straight out of Washington DC’s ‘Revolution Summer’ and a contrapuntal bass melody, before blasting into a final burst of cathartic intensity. The song and record’s finale is a reaffirmation of individuality over crucial drop-d riffage – fading out to the refrain of “I’ll find myself”.
It’s been six years since Combative Post‘s first full-length release The Ghost. While that record was intense, the visceral onslaught and emotional depth of Whiteout sees the band operating at another level entirely. Throughout this 26-minute heart attack of a record there is a masterful incorporation of ideas from across the entire history of Hardcore – ’80s Hardcore Punk thrash, ’90s grooves, the chugging and screaming octaves which characterised melodic Hardcore at the turn of the century and a monolithic production accommodating a modern alchemy of tones and elements from different genres of extreme underground music. The fact that this abundance of ideas is crammed into a relatively short runtime not only means the adrenaline rush is maintained for the whole listen, but that the music is a perpetual motion machine that doesn’t repeat itself or rely on any specific tricks, giving a sense of constantly building intensity.
Whiteout is a suitably dark record for the times we’re living in. However this isn’t music meant to distract us or provide a backdrop for wallowing in sadness or self-pity. This is furious, white-hot Hardcore Punk to cauterise our wounds and exorcise our collective grief.