Hesitation Wounds have the hardcore spectrum pretty much covered between the individual four members of the band. Vocalist Jeremy Bolm’s full-time gig is belting out throat-shredding cries of agony for contemporary screamo outfit Touche Amore, while guitarist Stephen LaCour has put in some crustier, more menacing work as Trap Them’s bassist. Guitarist Neeraj Kane is an alumnus of Boston metallic hardcore bruisers The Hope Conspiracy, and drummer Jay Weinberg, formerly of Against Me! and Slipknot, rounds out the group, amounting—at least on paper—to a group of veteran ringers in punk rock, their combined abilities impressive enough and diverse enough to suggest a path of heavy music with few limits or restrictive outlines.
On their first full-length, Awake for Everything, that’s pretty much exactly how it plays out. It’s a relatively short album at a slim 26 minutes, but that’s by no means indicative of a shortage of ideas. Much like United Nations, another band of punk rock vets with a metal chip on their shoulder, Hesitation Wounds explore the expanse of hardcore and beyond, staying true to its volume and impact while diving into the many variations possible given those loose guidelines. And they don’t necessarily need all that much time to do so, either; “All We Know” is 54 seconds of some of the year’s most viciously blistering grindcore, whereas the minute-and-a-half gallop of “Teeth” rides a furiously nasty groove. These two minutes don’t necessarily offer the whole expanse of Hesitation Wounds’ capabilities, but it’s a damn good start.
Hesitation Wounds build tension without wasting anyone’s precious time, opening the album with the ominous, doom-inspired riffs of “Operatic,” Bolm unleashing a gnarly, guttural gargle of a scream. One track later on the punchy surge of “Bleach,” he screeches, “Do you get it? Are you on the fence? Do you get it? Does it make sense?!” By this moment in the record, it should—the tone, speed, texture and melody might change, but Hesitation Wounds’ rabid, seething power certainly does not. The melodically complex “Hands Up” would be a highlight under any context, but a closer listen reveals a devastating commentary on racial injustice: “I’m ashamed of my skin/ Enough is enough!” It’s probably not a coincidence that it shares a common title with a Vince Staples song, which itself deals in similar themes.
When Hesitation Wounds dial back the tempo, they reveal a greater degree of depth at their disposal, stretching out into the post-punk sing-speak dirge “Away,” throwing down a sparse yet badass groove on “New Abuse,” and offering their closest analogue to a power ballad on “Streamlined.” There’s a breathtaking array of diversity on Awake for Everything, which makes it seem all the more remarkable that it happens in less than a half-hour and was written in less than three days. It might seem like it goes by in a blur, but within that writhing mass and cacophonous din is a spectacular work of rules-free hardcore.