Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blacklisted - Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God

Blacklisted - Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God
Deathwish Inc.

It can be hard watching a singer air his problems with an openness and I-don't-give-a-shit attitude. In this day and age, there's a good chance that heart-on-the-sleeve feeling is completely fake, produced by someone trying to seem desperate. Or, you have that feeling that sooner or later they're going to go over the top, and singing such absurdities as found on recent Hawthorne Heights singles. Thankfully, George Hirsch, Blacklisted's vocalist, is about as open and honest with his flaws as you can get. And on their newest LP, Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God, George lays his faults out for the world to see. Not only that, he relishes in them. And it couldn't be better.

Blacklisted was never really a band that I was too into. The first EP and full length (Our Youth is Wasted and The Beat Goes On, respectively) have their moments, but never really grabbed me. Last year's Peace on Earth, War on Stage, however, knocked me on my ass. Fresh off an almost breakup, with a revamped lineup, George and the boys dropped a 7" that was one of my favorite hardcore EPs in a long time.

Luckily, the newest LP picks up right where they left off. Only stronger. In the last year, Blacklisted has tightened up and written one of the strongest full lengths hardcore's heard in a long time. They come out punching you in the face on "Stations" and keep blazing through track after track. A dirty bass tone, and heavy guitars keep moving and show hints at old Blacklisted. But like Philly friends Paint it Black, Blacklisted have learned that the most demented and fucked up parts in hardcore aren't the loud ones; they're the quiet moments, when you learn to not play, but knock your listener on his ass. This record is full of moments just like that. Where breakdowns aren't pummeling, but warped all the same (see "Tough Test," "Wish," and "Circuit Breaker" among others).

And leading the charge into the demented is Hirsch. When he screams "Cause all I know is the downside" ("Memory Layne"), you know that he felt that. It's not MTV created anguish; it's legit. When he takes on religion and informs the listener/believer "We don't need Jesus to please us, it's not as comforting as you'd like to guess," it's beyond convincing. Hirsch even takes on marriage in "Matrimony," claiming "Tell me I'm childing all you want, I just want to love myself," and you know he's not selfish. He's truly searching for that spot in his life. And you, listener, have this search on wax.

Truly the most different track for Blacklisted, and the most honest for George is "Wish," the album's closer. The 3 and a half minute dirge wanders almost aimlessly, with no chorus, but the repetition of "wish" keeps it moving. And when the album closes with Hirsch screaming, "Wish the darkness didn't cloud me, wish I wasn't an emotional wreck," you know that you've witnessed a cathartic moment, recorded for the world to hear.

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