Album Review: Pressure Cracks - 'This Is Called Survival'

18 January 2020 | 7:02 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

Chaotic hardcore jams with a message.

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What's awesome about the four chaotic hardcore punk songs on Pressure Cracks' 'This Is Called Survival' EP is that it's direct, so brutally to-the-point, whilst being far less contrived than The Fever 333. It speaks to the excited hardcore kid within me, without having to rip-off Linkin Park choruses in the process as per 'Strength In Numb333rs.' It's a purely volatile release with a message to preach, the kind of music that matches the chaotic times the band finds themselves living in due to the shambles of American politics. In fact, what Jason Butler and Pressure Cracks create sounds like their moniker: untold stress and pressure building, eventually cracking before everything is vented in a violent flurry. Unlike the vocalist's other project that's a mere heavier take on Run The Jewels and One Day As A Lion with some catchy rock moments, this group isn't about who is in band, but about what the band has to say and how they say it. Just like Rage Against The Machine, the medium is the message, and Pressure Cracks' message is a heated, outspoken and really fun hardcore broadcast.

With four songs and ten-minutes, Pressure Cracks rip and tear through some angular hardcore punk that cracks a riff-heavy whip with reckless abandon. Pressure Cracks is the closest that Jason has come to being apart of a project that can live up the musical prowess of Letlive.'s finest moments. Their second EP together, following their solid self-titled 2018 debut EP, doesn't alter the sound of the band, but rather kicks everything up another notch in terms of intensity. The drumming is faster and busier, the grooves land harder, the riffs are more rapid and frenzied, Jason's vocal performances are as explosive as ever, and everything is louder and more polished; it's a step up. 'This Is Called Survival' is pure, unbridled anger and frustration venting full-pelt about broken systems that serve to hurt poor, marginalized, and impoverished citizens that weren't lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

Opener 'Like Father Like None' speaks about the cycle of repeat offenders in the U.S. known as recidivism; a sharp, speedy and savage three-minute track addressing the flawed and prejudiced U.S. justice system, the bafflingly high incarceration rates, and how such a vile industrial prison complex only breeds an environment where inmates struggle to re-adjust in society once having left prison and therefore, often make repeat offenses. It all comes out swinging hard with a huge rhythm section, quick blast beats, razor-like guitars and Jason's iconic piercing high-pitched shrieks and confronting screams upping this musical prison riot; posing the question of "If we the criminals, then who the fuck are they?"

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The bouncy and squealing pinches of 'Ready For You' asserts that there's going to be zero rest on the path that this Southern Californian hardcore quintet walks with EP #2. For Pressure Cracks don't add in the varied spices of other genres and influences like Jason's other bands have done. Instead, they just remain as a fun, noisy, and somewhat generic hardcore band. Yet it all works! Because these five guys know that they're just a simpler, knuckle-dragging, hardcore act, and they pull it off very well, in such an engaging and energetic manner no less. Likewise, right after that, the bruising 'Shhh' sees them at their heaviest, fastest, noisiest and darkest; calling out monstrous abuses of power by law enforcement over aggro guitar blows, tough-as-shit breakdowns, indomitable vocal takes, and a distorted wall of solidarity.

Hardcore and punk bands have been taking pot-shots at religious ideologies, blind faith, and moral hypocrisy for decades and with fourth and final song, 'Big T Youth,' Pressure Cracks throws their own "blasphemous" two cents into the ring about this subject matter. We've seen this from Letlive. before, on '27 Club' and 'The Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion' and this closer, whilst shorter and more hardcore leaning, provides the same level of extremity. Featuring Seizures' Cameron Miller, the song is a wicked and violent piece tearing down those who try to provide a single holy answer for the struggles and experiences of so many people, no matter their colour or creed. The repeated gang-vocal rally cry of "heaven might be suitable, but Hell on earth is beautiful" helps cement this stance.

Pressure Cracks don't need any bells and whistles to make their songs better nor to get their political messages across. The medium is the message here and that's all they need: calling out society's BS and playing their stuff as loud and as fast as they can.  There's a real simplicity to the destructive, fast-paced hardcore punk four songs found on 'This Is Called Survival,' but with that comes authenticity and honesty, and that makes these four ragers hit that much harder; making them feel that much more dire and urgent. This EP makes so The Fever 333 seem like just that: a bad fever daydream that I wish to forget. Yet it's never trying to re-create what Jason was doing with Letlive. in their heyday; Pressure Cracks is its own thing. I still don't know how the guy has time for all this music, but my ears and my time will always be open to what Pressure Cracks have to offer.

  1. Like Father Like None
  2. Ready For You
  3. Shhh
  4. Big T Youth

'This Is Called Survival' is out now: