Incendiary – ‘Change the Way Think About Pain’

By Fiachra Johnston

It’s been six years since Incendiary have released a full LP, and while the world has changed drastically, the Long Island hardcore outfit have not. Just as brutal, just as boisterous, and just as vocal about their displeasure with the state of things, the group have returned with their fourth record. While you won’t see much in terms of new or evolved style, Incendiary’s increased focus on theming and lyrical composition back up their already iconic sound, making ‘Change the Way Think About Pain’ one of their best releases yet.

From the get go ’Bite The Hook’ launches into their signature rage, exasperated over the feeling of futility and avoidance: “Manic thoughts, Panic states, Reflection showing me everything’s the same”. If you were worried Brendan Garrone may have lost a step in the four years since, you have little to fear: Garrone immediately resumes his position as one of the scene’s most unique vocalists – his cadence impossible to truly recreate. The sing/scream mix is perfect for tracks like ‘Echo of Nothing’ which approaches the suffering of migrants with their usual gumption: “Use the stones to speak / Every window deserves a brick”. Hardcore bands often live and die by their drummers, and Dan Lomeli does not disappoint here either. The machine gun beats of ‘Jesus Bones’ make for one of the heaviest breakdowns in the album, and add a layer of frantic staccato to the anxiety-inducing ‘Host/Parasite’.

Likewise, the stellar guitars and bass from Audley, Nobile and McNally not only help keep up the frenetic pace, but manage to inject moments of surprise without losing that sustained sense of urgency. There are no lulls in the sinister riffs of ‘Lie of Liberty’, but you’ll still barely notice them wind up into a skull-splitting breakdown until it’s too late, as Garrone waxes lyrical on the breakdown of political beliefs into simple personality cults: “See the cracks in a fractured State / Kneel before your coiled snake”. Similarly, the rumbling intro to ‘CTE’ feels more like a doom metal track with its slow-building, macabre guitars, which belie its arrhythmic, furious pace, featuring more of those deliciously violent drums from Lomeli, Garrone chants on the titular condition with gruesome detail: “Mind melting, drip by drip”. The closing, titular track ends the album as it begins, a raucous observance on the nature of how we face pain, whether we avoid or embrace it, fading out on a horror film-esque riff that leaves the record on an unusually uneasy question mark.

Incendiary means it when they say they’ve prioritised tweaking their usual sound rather than reinventing it, but they excel at these sudden shifts in pace, always keeping the listener on edge, never truly giving us a moment to catch our breath. Beyond that, there are lots of little subversive moments throughout the album, small, unexpected choices that help it from feeling like a stagnant entry into what Incendiary believe is a rather long discography for a hardcore band. ‘Collision’ features the faintest touches of 90’s hard rock and metal in its bridges. These aren’t style-altering changes; ‘Change The Way You Think About Pain’ fits right at home with the rest of Incendiary’s riotous records, but there are enough of these details to warrant listening to the album again and again. Perhaps it’s this added depth that gives weight to this record, but regardless the result is ten of the band’s most substantial tracks.

There’s no one quite like Incendiary in the scene today. Paradoxically exuding such confidence whilst also touching on topics both sensitive and personal, the Long Island lords of hardcore have created a magnificent piece on the nature of coping and avoidance. While it’s not afraid to have its moments of self-reflection, it is no less savage than any of Incendiary previous works, and with all the riot-inducing energy it possesses, they may have just brute-forced their way into the conversation for album of the year.

FIACHRA JOHNSTON

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