Suplex – An Altar, A Stage EP

Suplex hail from Santa Rosa, California and write the type of screamo-hardcore that made Rise Records such a legendary focal point for the scene in the 1990s. Founded by Matt Baker (vocals) and James Venegas (drums) in 2018, the duo expanded to a five-piece and did the admirable thing of earning their battle scars on the live circuit before entering a recording studio. Now, their reputation as a visceral band precedes them, and they release their debut EP with a high degree of expectation. An Altar, A Stage might be only twenty-four minutes, but it leaves its mark like a reckoning with the self-destructive streak of personality you must suppress to remain a functioning member of society.

“I’ll burn the bridge to the future/ And stand waving goodbye/ To my hopes and dreams/ And won’t feel a thing/ Deep down I’ll know/ Life’s impending,” roars Baker on opening track, ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’. This message captures the candid self-hatred running through the record. The heavy doom intro and noise rock layering place Suplex closer to the Converge school of mathcore than the technical wizardry of Dillinger Escape Plan. You can hear the hardcore punk foundations of this music when the tempos accelerate, and the vocals crack under the strain of a blistered throat eruption. Baker’s shuffle between unhinged screaming and improvised melody resonates with an Ian MacKaye (Fugazi) intensity. Today is the Day are an influence on the manic depressive ferocity of ‘Wallflower Suicide’. “Writing love letters to death/ One room away from the saving graces known/ Resentment pooling in your steps/ Regret for wishing it’d be an easy tie to cut.” Where else outside of hardcore do you encounter soul-searching lyrics like these in the heavy music scene?

“There is freedom in chaos,” might be the message, but it’s a chaos the group shape with their bare hands and through gritted teeth. ‘The Friction of Existence’ would be a standard hardcore assault if not for the determination to satisfy the mosh pit as much as the personal demons haunting Baker’s psyche. Suplex write music because they must, not because they want to be famous or lauded for their integrity in the era of TikTok and the demise of the album. ‘New Joy’ showcases the more complex side of the band through a myriad of non-repeating sequences and unpredictable changes. ‘Lock and Key’ launches a cerebral attack from the front row and into your front room if you get too close to the action. Low guitar tunings are irrelevant when you play with this much aggression and purpose. Baker sounds close to bursting a blood vessel in his temple during the middle section. The fusion solo is just as surprising as the band’s decision to end the song in a force field of amp feedback.

Closing track, ‘Salted Steps’, suggests Suplex have wider ambitions to expand their sound beyond chaotic hardcore and into the pathos of alternative rock. Here, they deliver seven minutes of paranoia that threatens to turn nasty, yet they keep it together like senior figures at a funeral. If they won’t stay strong as a pillar of support, who will? The pain underneath the exterior of fortitude is there if you look beyond the noise.

An Altar, A Stage shows much promise, and you know this is only the beginning for Suplex. They have more gears to discover that will intensify their sound further. The ambition of their musicianship will align ability with vision as they continue to understand each other’s capabilities. Their debut album should be a riotous affair on the evidence of this record.



Release Date: 03/03/2023

Record Label: Self Released

Standout tracks: Don’t Hold Your Breath; New Joy

Suggested Further Listening: The Callous Daoboys – Die on Mars (2019), End You – Aimless Dread (2021), Norma Jean – Deathrattle Sing for Me (2022)