If Southern Lord gave its roster the homework assignment of creating an outstanding hardcore album in 2012, almost the entire class seems to have aced it. First, Black Breath delivered a thrash-infused riff monster with Sentenced to Life, followed by a streamlined crust update from Martyrdöd on Paranoia. Toronto’s Burning Love concocted their own form of nihilism and hedonism on Rotten Thing To Say. Yet Milwaukee wreckers Enabler come close to setting the curve with the release of their latest death-tinged hardcore triumph, All Hail the Void.
Carving a raw and menacing niche in the channels that connect the sometimes blurry and arbitrary lines between hardcore, death metal and crust-punk, Enabler continue to find sources of fresh blood and innovation in genres that have been kicking around for decades. Given the band members’ combined résumés, however, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Among its ranks are musicians who have contributed portions of brutality to the likes of Today Is the Day, Trap Them and Shai Hulud (and, more surprisingly, Fall Out Boy), so playing heavy music not only comes naturally for Enabler, its path of sustainability has only grown stronger over time.
With All Hail the Void, though, hardcore is really a foundation on which the band builds even greater and more streamlined, blistering creations that flout the genre’s conventions as much as they do bolster them. All 12 tracks destroy, of course; that much is perfectly obvious after one sprint through its 34 minutes. Yet exactly what method the band chooses to destroy varies from song to song. Stylistic weapons of choice transition from straight-up d-beat assault (“The Heathens”), to grindcore jackhammer (“False Profit”), to atmospheric doom (“They Live We, Sleep”), each two- and three-minute slaughter amplified to its most intense and executed with efficiency and precision.
So, sure, Enabler plays loud and fast and all that, but that’s really only a qualifying prerequisite, a means rather than an end. Where the band excels is in crafting memorable melodies out of otherwise destructive sonic elements. For as much ire and screech comes from vocalist Jeff Lohrber’s throat, or as much low-end power-chord grind Greg Thomas wrings from his guitar, there’s an astonishing amount of simply great tunes here, and catchy ones at that. Opening track “F.A.T.H.” begins ominously with some stark strums of acoustic guitar before ushering in an onslaught of crust, while “Speechless” boasts some rapid-fire guitar hooks. “True Love” is straightforward melodic punk rock with anger and bile to spare, and “Save Yourself” makes the most of its limited magazine of power chords.
It bears mentioning that All Hail the Void sounds exceptional. Thomas’ production filters out the excessive distorted mess that sometimes muddies up the standard crust-punk stomper, leaving a sleek yet absolutely vicious set of songs that get the job done without leaving much slop in their wake. While Enabler’s brand of hardcore incorporates enough disparate elements to keep it from ever sounding traditional, the familiar and cathartic, primal aggression behind them captures all of hardcore’s glory without resorting to cliché.
Stream: Enabler – “Speechless”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.