Beneath California

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On their second LP for Epitaph, San Diego-based hardcore act Retox continue to whittle away any extraneous trimmings, delivering a needle-sharp set that is brutal, fast, and rigidly concise. Frontman Justin Pearson (the Locust, Swing Kids, Head Wound City) is a pretty major figure in the realm of noise rock, punk, hardcore, and its various related subgenres dating back to the early '90s, and the fact that he and his bandmates can still manage to burn with such blazing intensity is a testament to both their acute focus and some deep reservoirs of personal fury. Short and sweet, few of the songs have any sort of intro that doesn't begin with Pearson screaming and, while in keeping with the hardcore ethos, there are elements of math rock, grindcore, old-school thrash, and powerviolence scattered throughout the album's 12 cuts. Songs like "We Know Who's the Prick" and "This Should Hurt a Little Bit" manage to marry impressive technical precision with enough punk club grime to give them some earthy texture. "Death Will Change Your Life" and "Wooden Nickels" are downright riffy, with elements of classic hardcore and a more straightforward approach than some of Pearson's previous projects. Still, if adopting a more straightforward approach is a sign of age or maturity in this style of music, it's a pretty subtle one. The pounding, feedback-laden thrash of opener "Die in Your Own Cathedral" is as vital and virile as anything by a group of discontented 18-year-olds, and Retox keep it up throughout the record.

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