the_Network, a New Hampshire-based quintet of metallic hardcore enthusiasts, released their first album to mild acclaim in 2007. Titled This Is Your Pig’s Portrait, the album showcased a band possessed of serious instrumental chops and a near-unhinged level of aggression, if one somewhat over-indebted to their musical peers – the influence of bands like Converge (whose Kurt Ballou produced this effort at his God City studio), Deadguy, Botch and Coalesce was stamped all over the tracks.
Well, something’s happened in the two years since. For one thing, the level of ambition in the_Network‘s music appears to have increased exponentially – Bishop Kent Manning is a concept album based on a short story written by guitarist Kevin Howley, dealing with the rise and fall of a corrupt televangelist. For another, the pool of influences on the band’s sound appears to have gotten deeper. Sure, we still get Botch-esque technical-yet-hooky dissonant riffage, blasts of pyroclastic hardcore fury and nailbomb-like grinding hatred driving the songs, but there are also tracks like the 7-minute-plus ‘Corpse Paint’, which takes a doomier, Cult Of Luna-esque approach to bludgeoning the listener. There are moments of percussion-led hammering that bring to mind that sadly-forgotten bunch of Manchester-based mentalists, Beecher (whose last record was also produced by Kurt Ballou, coincidentally). The intro to eighth track ‘You Fucking Fakes’ reminds this writer of the_Network’s former labelmates on Black Market Activities, the crushing FoundDeadHanging.
Yet despite all these references to other bands and influences, the greatest improvement in the_Network‘s output since 2007 is that they no longer sound derivative of those influences – everything has been fused together into a satisfyingly coherent sound – grind meets technical metalcore meets sludge meets post-hardcore for a knifefight, if you will. The only real complaint I have about this release is in the track order – the more aggressive, faster cuts are frontloaded, meaning the last four tracks or so on the album are the more mid-tempo crushers – great tracks, still, but the forward momentum of the album established by the raging opening tracks falters towards the middle and never really recovers. Apart from that minor quibble though, this is a powerful, furious beast of an album, and well worth a look.