Review / Sense Offender + They Live | We Sleep – Split EP

When I see either Gaza or Cult Leader cited as influences, my ears tend to perk up. Knowing the Salt Lake City powerhouses have informed a sound, right away I expect to be hearing claustrophobic, caustic, and chaotic hardcore full of discordant, angular riffing underscored by a rhythm section with a filling-shaking low end and full steam percussive attack while hollow, shredded vocals round out the experience. When a group manages to connect the harsher, more blistering aspects to the more spacious, noisier points as Gaza and Cult Leader did, it’s a real winning combination. So, to say I was excited when I read the press piece from Trepanation records regarding the recently released Sense Offender and They Live | We Sleep split was an understatement.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the influence of Nails and Trap Them, too, and while I hear both, I’m not sure I picked up on them quite as much. To be clear, that’s not a slight, I just didn’t hear either as prominently for whatever reason. While I picked up at times a very clear grind influence, I never felt either Sense Offender or TLWS really leaning into that sound and trending more towards the singularity in time where metallic hardcore and metalcore connected before diverging. In the riffing and phrasing, there are a of commonalities with the Ferret and Trustkill rosters from 2000-2010, with both Sense Offender and TLWS never hesitating to drop from a full bore, straight-ahead hardcore drive into a pummelling, off-beat breakdown while skillfully avoiding the genre pitfalls without seeming as though they actively went out of their way to avoid them. There’s a real organic feel to the six tracks, with a great, raw sound and attitude being captured. Both groups would have seemed perfectly at home on One Day Saviour, the aforementioned Trustkill and Ferret rosters, or Eulogy Records.

While both bands really succeed in executing the gnarly, math-y, crusty metallic hardcore cited as influences, there are elements that, hopefully, will be expanded upon with future releases. With as much rampant charging as there is on the split, there’s room for both groups to pull back and let absence and noise create space. The desire for breathing room isn’t the 2020 equivalent of becoming more melodic—we learned something from the MySpace days—and is more about wanting to hear further accentuation of the rabid hardcore assault both groups execute so well. Hopefully, the not-too-distant future sees both groups release EPs or LPs to showcase that which the format of a split just may not have allowed. In the meantime, please enjoy a wonderful throwback record that drums up memories of a really exciting time in hardcore.

Sense Offender/They Live | We Sleep split is out now via Trepanation Records and can be ordered here.

Words: Tristan McCallum

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