Partisan – ‘We Have Been So Terribly Betrayed’

By James Lee

If the evidence collected in the last few years is anything to go by, every kid in a hardcore band will eventually reach a point where they shed their Jane Doe t-shirts and Vans sneakers, emerging like a gothic snake clad all in black, a brace of Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine LPs under one arm and a case full of reverb pedals under the other. It seems that when one grows out of the mosh lifestyle, it’s becoming more and more common for metal and hardcore artists to embrace shoegaze and post-punk as their new home. Notable examples include Wes Eisold’s brooding Cold Cave, the shimmering gloom of Nothing (featuring former members of Horror Show), the Cure-esque pomp of Geoff Rickley’s No Devotion and, most recently, Ryan Patterson of Coliseum’s foray into drum-machine assisted post-punk in the form of Fotocrime.

Though sonically the leap from raging hardcore into a more quietly seething form of rock might seem a big one, the aesthetic and atmosphere of the differing styles have many clear crossovers, the themes of loss, dissatisfaction and emotional despair hanging over both like a black cloud. So maybe it does make a lot of sense that, once the youthful exuberance has been expelled and the bones are weary from one-too-many circle pits, a more measured form of expression is the key to continue the spreading of musical misery.

Partisan are based in Ghent, Belgium, and are yet another act whose roots lie in the Church Of Ra movement, in this instance being formed of ex-members of Rise And Fall and Oathbreaker. Unlike other acts unified under the Ra banner, however, they deal not in crushing heaviness or flailing aggression, but in – you guessed it – a downbeat flavour of post-punk that shares far more with Interpol than it does with Integrity. In fact, that band’s ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ album is about as good a sonic reference point you could find when approaching ‘We Have Been So Terribly Betrayed’, Partisan’s new 6-track EP released on Hypertension Records.

Opening track ‘You And I’ begins with a queasy tremolo guitar that leads into to a pulsing and sinister verse, before giving way to an anthemic yet sorrowful chorus that delights and depresses in equal measure. ‘No Last Surrender’ ups the ante, with an unwavering drum march driving the song as a brace of chiming guitars and haunting vocal hooks bury themselves deep into your ears. Though it would be wrong to describe Partisan as ‘upbeat’ in any way, there’s a propulsion to their music that, whilst sharing little with their previous bands’ raging templates, gives their songs a sense of urgency that is often missing in this genre. Even when the pace drops again on ‘Change’, the walls of distorted riffs in the song’s chorus breathe fire where the rest of the band remain icy cold and detached. There are little hints like this throughout the EP at the members’ past musical endeavours, particularly in the climax to ‘Forget’. Though on the surface the song is a brooding tapestry of swaying shoegaze, it’s hard not to hear how well the winding riffs that bring the piece to a close would sound over a barrage of blackened blastbeats, the effect of which would surely very closely resemble a cut from Oathbreaker’s ‘Rheia’. Details like that might be lost to a listener unaware of Partisan’s extreme history, but they are there like little Easter eggs just waiting to be found.

‘We Have Been So Terribly Betrayed’ is a short and succinct work that, whilst unquestionably not conventionally heavy, has enough gloom and emotional intensity that fans of the band’s previous endeavours should find something to enjoy. Fresh ears unaware of Partisan’s hardcore past will find delight (or misery) in the discovery of a new, untapped source of post-Joy Division guitar rock that has just a little more edge than many of its peers are capable of producing. Not a record to throw on at a party, but its mournful vibes would match any black metal as a perfect soundtrack for a lonely walk through the woods.

JAMES LEE

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