When it comes to NCHC there isn’t a band playing today that represents it better than Ill Natured. Before talking about their latest release it is important to discuss, albeit very briefly, the context of this release. Or at least my understanding of the context of this release from the outside.
NCHC (Newcastle Hardcore) has a long history of treading the fine line between hardcore and metal. If a lot of these bands were from Sydney or Melbourne it is doubtful they would play the same shows or occupy the same space and this has helped to create, for better or worse, a scene that is uniquely identifiable. You need to have a broad understanding of hardcore to really be able to appreciate the nuance in what it is that bands in Newcastle and the Hunter do. Some of the best Australian Hardcore records have come out of Newcastle. I love it but that’s just me. If you were lucky enough to grow up in the late 90’s or through the 2000’s then you will know what I’m talking about. If not check out Life.Love.Regret, Conation, Dropsaw, and The Dead Walk!
Anyway that is enough of a history lesson. This release is absolutely crushing. It is a step up for Ill Natured who were already, in my opinion, one of the more solid bands around. Everything here feels tighter, more cohesive, and more thought out. Obviously this isn’t to say that the production or songwriting on previous releases wasn’t good but there is a greater sense of urgency in the songs here.
The first track “The Hammer” introduces the heavier and more refined sound that Ill Natured have developed. The guitar tone is now more reminiscent of contemporary metalcore bands than the crossover thrash sound they had on earlier releases. The drums sound fuller and the vocals come through with an intensity that immediately puts the band in a more commanding position. On the second half of the track there is a guest appearance by Ryan Pond of the band Downside whose vocals here fit the song incredibly well.
The second track “Faced with Death” opens with a sample from the film Wake in Fright, the film itself is a biting critique of what happens when a promising young person gets trapped in a small country town, trapped by their own prejudices and expectations of the people who originally lived there, make of that what you will in the meaning of the song. Following the sample the track immediately comes in to step on your head. This track in particular seems to be made for the pit, from about 90 seconds in to the end of the track if you shut your eyes you can feel the sweat of bodies on bodies circling in the front room of the hamo.
The release closes with a re-recordintg of the track “Ill Natured”, the first track of the bands debut demo back in 2014. Choosing to re-record this track seems to be a statement of renewal, the band knows where it has come from and knows where its headed.