T is for This is Hell
Part of the fun of doing the Random Records is getting to go back and revisit records that I haven’t listened to as much recently. Sundowning, the debut record from Long Island’s This is Hell, falls into that category. Way back when this came out in 2006, I loved this record. I was super into hardcore back in high school and This is Hell masterfully straddled the line between viscously heavy and the melodically catchy, punctuated with gang vocals. There’s something about everyone shouting “If the good die young we’ll fucking live forever,” that’s cathartic, whether you’re just hearing it or shouting along at the top of your lungs. Whether you’re into the tough guy stuff or more classic youth crew, there’s something for you here.
The record starts with the minute-long blast of “Retrospect,” setting the stage for the following 27 minutes. It’s intense and in your face, with striking lines like, “In retrospect, we can laugh at how obvious it is when the pillars go / But when it's all collapsing around your feet it seems you're always the last to know.” That was one of my favorite things about This is Hell. The lyrics hold nothing back while painting vivid, dark images. Songs such as “Permanence,” “The Polygraph Cheaters,” and “Procession Commence,” face the stark reality of life with the bluntest words possible. “Bookmark this page this is where things fall apart / Remember these days, cause this is how downward spirals start,” from “Permanence,” or the chorus from “The Polygraph Cheaters,” in which vocalist Travis Reilly shouts “Medic! Medic! / Man down and we're losing him fast. / Forget it Forget it. / That last breath was his last. / Medic Medic. We were seconds too late.” There’s a dark reality to those lines, and the heaviness of the music combined with the weight of the words, paints an image of the war that is life. Lines like “I am a modern day Nero, so hand me a fiddle and a bow, / cause dancing on ashes and graves is the only joy I know,” which Reilly shouts at the end of “Procession Commence,” and “We're arsonists among architects, and we'll burn this fucker to the ground,” from “The Polygraph Cheaters” reinforce this obsession with destruction. They don’t paint it as a needless thing though. It’s just the way it is.
This is Hell fly through 28 minutes of intense, in-your-face hardcore on Sundowning, and keep that pattern up through the rest of their discography. Whether it’s Reilly’s shouts backed up with gang vocals or the extreme heaviness of the guitars, Sundowning just sounds like running into a wall of noise. This hardcore has morphed a bit towards more of a crossover vibe, as seen on their latest record, 2011’s Black Mass. While they haven’t been very active in a while, an offshoot, Extinction A.D. has picked up where This is Hell left off, releasing their first record, Faithkiller last year. Extinction A.D. take the crossover thrash to its thrashier extreme, and up the emphasis on destruction and devastation. If you’re into This is Hell, and don’t mind the heavy stuff, Extinction A.D. is a great follow up.