Uphill Battle

Wreck of Nerves

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On their second full album, 2004's Wreck of Nerves, California's Uphill Battle appear to have struck upon a happy medium between the sheer brutality of grindcore, and the overtly technical, loony-for-lunacy's sake fusion-core experiments of The Dillinger Escape Plan. Well, perhaps happy isn't the best term, since the quartet's diverse, tightly wound brand of metalcore continues to be fueled by unfathomable depths of anger, hatred, and self-loathing -- but you get the picture. In choosing to eschew excess showboating and barely controlled chaos, Uphill Battle are clearly borrowing a page or two from recent underground metal success stories like the manic Converge (to whom they have long been compared) and labelmates Mastodon. In both cases, instrumental genius is rarely allowed to get in the way of well-constructed songs. Weaving their way through this dangerous minefield of potential overkill, standout tracks like "Lingering Existence," "Breaking Down," and "Thresh Hold" balance harmony and dissonance, complexity and straightforwardness within their highly unstable mix. Rarely wavering in momentum, further highlights like "Shifting Pain" and "Still Born" easily pack more awesome riffs in their dense structures than most hardcore bands manage in a whole album. And all of this "control" doesn't mean that Uphill Battle aren't liable to simply freak out at any given moment (see "Another Step" or the positively manic title track), mowing down the opposition in a flurry of notes and drumbeats that would give most black metal bands a run for their money. All in all, Wreck of Nerves is a challenging, not overwhelming sonic stew containing premium metalcore. Uphill Battle have definitely benefited from stretching their songs beyond hardcore's two- or three-minute boundaries, and the dynamic versatility they've uncovered for themselves will surely lead to an as yet untapped wealth of possibilities in albums to come.

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