Jesus Piece (along with Sleep Token) are the name most likely to appear in conversations about breakout bands of 2023. That’s because the Philadelphia quintet play the type of violent hardcore that appeals to metalheads. Kerrang! provided them with a wider platform to promote their 2018 debut, Only Self, with an exclusive show in London. It didn’t take Century Media long to detect the underground buzz and sign them up for their latest effort. As their sophomore release and major label debut, …So Unknown should be an early contender for album of the year if we’re to judge them on the quality of their lead single, ‘Gates of Horn’. Are they up to the task of fulfilling expectations?
The opening two tracks suggest Jesus Piece eye the void left by Dillinger Escape Plan in their sights. With Periphery losing their way on their latest offering, this is a vacuum that many contemporaries could step into while creating their own momentum and identity. Vein.fm and Code Orange are two obvious candidates, but Jesus Piece show they have the same capabilities on ‘In Constraints’ and ‘Fear of Failure’ – two tracks that will leave you with butterflies in your stomach and a dizzy sensation in your head. The former is a magnificent eruption of brutal chug riffs and start-stop dynamics with Gojira pick-slide effects and off-kilter drums. Here Aaron Heard strains every tonsil to rid his gullet of the vitriol inside him. On the latter, he screams in the gaps where the riffs mutate from death metal into mathcore spasms. We’re already at riff number four in less than one minute. You get the picture. This is pure chaos.
The first half of this record contains few flaws and an abundance of paranoid energy. ‘Tunnel Vision’ will be an ideal opener in the group’s live set. Listen to the extended intro of double-kick accents and panned guitar sequences – you can feel your adrenaline accelerating at the thought of seeing this on stage. The grooves might be jagged, but the guitar incursions belong on a Machine Head album as much as a Merauder record. ‘Silver Lining’ marks the half-way point in style with a unique mix of Korn’s Life is Peachy drum beats and Killing Joke’s abstract melodies. Their Nashville label mates in Orthodox will appreciate the might of the beatdown riffs on offer here. How does drummer, Luis Aponte, keep up with such gratuitous dynamic patterns? Man, this is heavy.
Though …So Unknown lands like a bullet between the eyes, the second half of the LP sheds its mathcore fury in favour of a more conventional groove metal-cum-hardcore approach. Some people will appreciate the band’s willingness to keep things fresh, but Jesus Piece are just another competent metal unit among many when they lose this aspect of their music. Lead single, ‘Gates of Horn’, struggles to emerge as a standout song at track six, while the likes of ‘Profane’ and ‘An Offering to the Night’ are equal to the best moments of Lamb of God’s last record but not much else. True, ‘Stolen life’ makes inventive use of guitar pedal effects in the opening sequence, but the predictable default to chugging guitar rhythms and monstrous two-stepping grooves offers little excitement unless this is your first time hearing this type of music.
Like Code Orange and Knocked Loose, the members of Jesus Piece show they have the talent to create a new landscape for heavy music. Unlike these two, they are still at the stage of the draughtsman, where they have the vision in their heads and on paper. They’re not quite at the level of development befitting of their artistic skills, but there’s no reason to believe album number three will be a turkey. This is a band on the up. Their sophomore effort is worth your time even if it could have been better.
Release Date: 14/04/2023
Record Label: Century Media
Standout tracks: In Constraints; Fear of Failure; Silver Lining
Suggested Further Listening: Merauder – Master Killer (1996), Vein.fm – Errorzone (2018), Orthodox – Learning to Dissolve (2022)