Quicksand: getting familiar with the post hardcore titans

Quicksand: getting familiar with the post hardcore titans

By Aaron Lohan

Oct 31, 2017 13:00

This is a spin off of our "Where to Start" series! In this feature we provide an overview on the obscure and relatively unknown acts with fewer than five albums. In other words, in this guide we go through a band's discography album by album, telling you our thoughts on each record, as well as giving insight into the band themselves and why we recommend them for your listening pleasure. This month: Quicksand.

The band who we know as Quicksand owes its origins to the New York hardcore scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Walter Schreifels, the primary songwriter/guitarist of Gorilla Biscuits and Youth Of Today bassist, formed the post hardcore group in 1990, following the dissolution of his previous band Moondog. Filling out the line up with Schreifels as the lead vocalist/guitarist was guitarist Tom Capone (Beyond, Bold), bassist Sergio Vega (Collapse, Absolution) and drummer Alan Cage (Beyond, Burn).

Together they crafted their own spin on the post hardcore genre, taking the heavier metallic punk elements adopted by many of the New York hardcore bands in that era, and remolding it with a mix of dynamic rhythms, anthemic verve, subtle pop and a sonic majesty. After releasing a self-titled EP on Revelation Records the same year they formed, as well as gaining exposure via shows with the likes of Fugazi, Anthrax, Helmet and Rage Against the Machine, they were courted by major label interest. This led to the release of their two highly influential albums, including 1993 debut ‘Slip’ on Polydor Records and 1995’s sophomore effort ‘Manic Compression’. Stylistically both records created quite a stir in the underground scene as they showed off Quicksand’s inspirational concoction.

Yet internal conflict and the stress from frequent touring eventually led to the group’s first break up in 1995. After briefly diverging with their own projects, they would reform for a year and a half from 1998 to 1999, yet this was short lived and premature due to the previous internal issues not being fully mended at this point. This would lead to the discarding of unreleased material for a third album they were in the middle of recording.

Over the next decade, the band’s members would involve themselves in various projects. Schreifels formed the equally influential Rival Schools from 1999 to 2003 (they would reform in 2008) and indie rockers Walking Concert, whilst Capone has been a member of alt rockers Instruction. Then we come to Vega, who from 2010 filled in for Deftones bassist Chi Cheng whilst he was in a coma, only to become a permanent member when Cheng tragically passed away in 2013. As for Cage, he has worked and contributed to the likes of Enemy, 108 and New Idea Society.

By 2012, after performing as an unannounced guest at Revelation Records’ 25th anniversary shows, the post hardcore act would reform permanently. Since then they have played a smattering of shows and are on the verge of releasing their long overdue third album and follow up to ‘Manic Compression’, entitled ‘Interiors’, next month on Epitaph Records. It should be noted that this will be the first album Quicksand will release as a trio, mainly due to the fact that Tom Capone has stepped down due to personal reasons. Based on the two singles that have been released, ‘Illuminant’ and ‘Cosmonauts’, the band are truly exploring the dimensions of a style they helped inspire. Therefore before it drops, it only feels right that we guide you over Quicksand’s previous material. Prepare to get familiar with one of the scenes most important acts.


Quicksand’s landmark debut album was another inspirational stride in post hardcore’s evolution. Like Helmet, they added a metallic grit to the genre. Unlike that band however, they wrought it with a raw melodic gusto which created an anthemic quality that touched upon alternative rock influences. Such a vast scope was amplified and delivered through the band’s use of dynamic shifts and hard hitting rhythms. Opener ‘Fazer’ cemented this, with its combination of bouncing bass tones, impactful drum work and gritty yet utterly majestic guitar work. It is a song that pulls you right into the very fabric of Quicksand’s musicality on this record.

From there, what unfolds onto the listener is a plethora of cuts that knocks them into a welcome senseless ecstasy. ‘Head to Wall’ begins with a latching bass line and drums, before exploding into a wall of abrasive noise, which is followed by propulsive, otherworldly rhythms in ‘Dine Alone’. Alongside such ingenuity is the more straight to the point punk energy with ‘Lie and Wait’, as well as the mid tempo titular track, a song whose loud parts are pulverising and slow segments hypnotic. However, the instrumentation’s success wouldn’t be impactful without the angst ridden vocal delivery from Walter Schreifels. His strung out yet relatable tones allow songs like the momentous ‘Freezing Process’ to breakout with pure gusto. Additionally, Schreifels has a knack at melding the delivery of his wording to seamlessly blend with the rhythms. ‘Can Opener’ is a mighty fine example of this, especially mid way through the song.

The last four songs, beginning with the sidewinding, aggravative ‘Omission’, solidify the New York post hardcore act’s impactful mark. The anger of the aforementioned track gives way to the ethereal instrumental ‘Baphomet’, which sonically transports doubtful, emotive and contemplative vibes into the LPs final two songs. A familiar bassline alerts the atmosphere as penultimate song ‘Too Official’ starts, keeping the listener on their toes. Within seconds, Quicksand showcase all of their greatest qualities; heavy rhythms, subtle melodies and a propulsive delivery. It is the peak of ‘Slip”s far reaching anthemic scope. This is eventually grounded by album closer ‘Transparent’, which also has a grand electrifying mix of melodies and heaviness, yet comes with an air of emotive acceptance to it. By its end, there is no question or doubt that this 1993 document lives up to its cult like praise.

‘Manic Compression’

In contrast to their debut, 1995’s ‘Manic Compression’ saw the band hone in and refine their relentless energy. Production wise, this second album isn’t as “muddy” as the previous effort, which went hand in hand with Quicksand’s continual growth as musicians, tightening their craft. That’s not to say that they de-fanged their bite. The likes of ‘Backward’, ‘Divorce’ and ‘Thorn in My Side’ are gritty and rage smitten in their tone and impact. Rather, these songs expand on the melodic and “accessible” tendencies that were previously lingered in the background.

One song that definitely raises the up tempo, anthemic sheen is ‘Landmine Spring’. This mountain scaler of a track that is grounded with its hefty rhythm section, whilst the lead guitar displays a melodic aura. As well as expanding in dynamics, the tune also shows off Quicksand’s tighter approach that runs throughout ‘Manic Compression’s runtime. The tense drudgery of ‘Delusional’, the dynamically shifting ‘Simpleton’ and the ebb and flow in ‘Skinny (It’s Overflowing)’ testify to this methodical musicianship.

For all the qualities that ‘Manic Compression’ has, there is a sense of it not truly reaching its full potential. Say what you will about ‘Slip’s murky production, but what made it an outstanding classic is the raw emotive energy it has. With this album however, whilst it is a constructively strong record, it does lack its predecessors inspirational impact, especially as it nears the final third; the last song ‘It Would Be Cooler If You Did’ does have a meandering touch to it. All in all though it is a very good follow up to a classic album. We’ll have to see if its long awaited follow up ‘Interiors’ exceeds and pays off the ideas that ‘Manic Compression’ displayed.

The previous albums released by Quicksand, ‘Slip’ and ‘Manic Compression’, are products of underground art that added to the continual evolution of the post hardcore staple. Quicksand’s influence in creating songs that were discordantly heavy and subtly melodic, an abrasive yet accessible style that would inspire not only big hitters like Deftones and Tool, but a near cult like flow that channeled through the alternative, punk, hardcore and metal scenes. We look forward to what the overall impact their long awaited third LP ‘Interiors’ will have to this new generation of music fans.

’Interiors’ by Quicksand will be released on the 10th November via Epitaph Records and can be pre-ordered here. They will also be playing the following UK shows.

24 NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
25 MANCHESTER Sound Control
26 LONDON O2 Islington Academy