Generally speaking, I am not a fan of metallic hardcore. Yes, I listen to crust, but I’m referring more to the type of metallic hardcore that so often gets panned by the Punknews readership: “thugcore,” “moshcore,” what have you. Other than a few songs by Donnybrook, my inborn aversion to all that is Headbanger’s Ball-ready has prevented me from truly getting my mosh on. The debut LP by San Antonio bros Bitter End, Climate of Fear, is not a transcendent album -- it has, however, opened up my tastes to an entire sub-sub-genre that I had willfully ignored.
The disc begins with “Panic,” a collection of news samples that mentions September 11th, the Iraq War, and the Virginia Tech Massacre among other incidents. I was previously unaware that bands this “br00tal” could cover any political content that wasn’t horrifically right-wing, so this came as a pleasant surprise. As the samples die down, a rolling, almost groovy bass line and pounding drums immediately fade up, which then give way to chugging guitar chords. Once the band transitions to into the first actual song, “Climate of Fear,” the chord progressions stick to a peppy but mid-paced beat, and the occasional line-ending palm-muted parts add to the overall heavy sound without bogging down the music in pointless breakdowns. Bitter End, unlike many of their more metallic or less talented peers, know how to write a fucking song. They understand that a breakdown does not constitute a chorus; that gang vocals work best when used sparingly; and that a variety of tempos within a single song makes it more interesting, not harder to dance to. Bitter End even attempts a few heavy metal-style lead guitar harmonies, which turn out surprisingly well, and serve to make the beatdown-styled music catchier and more accessible.
Of course, Climate of Fear does have its faults. Vocalist Daniel Rosen is acceptable, but his hoarse shouts delivered with an almost hip-hop cadence are bland at best. The vocals really aren’t memorable at all -- just another spitting bulldog in a genre full of them. Guitarist Griffin Jarzombek provides some additional vocals, but having an awesome name does nothing to improve his ridiculous tough-guy growls. The only other serious complaint I have is that the style, while done well, simply can’t support extended listening: A whole album of mid-tempo metallic hardcore, regardless of its quality or reasonable 30-minute runtime, just gets to be too boring for me. I suppose that’s ADD for you.
So, despite having unremarkable vocals and perhaps the most boring cover art since Nuclear Assault’s Handle with Care, Climate of Fear is ultimately an enjoyable metallic hardcore album. Bitter End pay their respects to both old-school NYHC and new-school `90s metalcore without either style becoming overwhelming. While not perfect, Climate of Fear is good for a first album and is, for me at least, a suitable introduction to a genre I no longer consider to be musically, stylistically, and ethically bankrupt.