Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Network--Bishop Kent Manning

Welcome back from Christmas, friends and party people.  I hope your Christmas consumerist splurging and culinary excesses went as swimmingly and tasted as fine as mine did.  With my wife back in town to keep me reigned in, it's high time I started participating in my normal daily rituals, which are namely 1) eating regularly, 2) showering, and 3) writing.  Things to look forward to this week: my non-exclusive Agalloch review, and...potentially some other stuff.  But for right now, I'd like to talk about the New England thunderlizards known as The Network.

The first time I heard about The Network was in a Decibel Upfront profile that detailed their latest album, Bishop Kent Manning.  I'm no musical historian; however, I like to think that I'm no slouch.  But when it comes to making lofty comparisons to bands that nobody's ever heard of, the Decidudes/Decidudettes take the cake.  It's actually quite impressive, and if you haven't checked out the magazine yet, you should pick up a copy from your local news stand or visit their website to see what I'm talking about.  When I read Decibel, I try to look out for buzzwords or familiar turns of phrase that clue me in to whether or not I might like a given band.  Buzzwords that I like to look out for can be words that indicate that I'll really like the band (for example, crusty, shreddy, prog, D-beat), as well as indicators that almost always mean I will hate them (psych, noise, grim, frostbitten, good cop/bad cop).  Based on these indicators, it's always pretty clear what I will and will not like, and though I can't remember what buzzwords were used to describe The Network exactly, I was certain by the end of the profile that I would enjoy their musical stylings.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I'm at Waterloo Records on 6th and Lamar.  I have some extra cash dollars to spend, and I just happen to stumble upon The Network's Bishop Kent Manning album, which I am forced to purchase based on an arbitrary set of rules in my mind that are based on circumstances for musical purchases following one of many  predetermined paths.  It's pretty convoluted and not at all interesting, so I'll skip that part.

The Network blew me away the first few times I listened to Bishop Kent Manning; their thick and gritty hardcore attack forsakes the standard Converge/Tragedy formula and focuses largely on midtempo thunder with some more uptempo passages to propel the suffocatingly heavy music forward.  One thing I am still particularly impressed with is The Network's singer (who I'm not going to Google, because I never do), whose voice drips with anger and languishes in thick, bilious vitriol.  His picture-perfect shredded throat screams complement the music perfectly, which is something that hardcore vocals fail to do, sometimes falling into the regrettable "mongo vocal" range that can take the wind out of the proverbial sails and leave the listener (me) flaccid as an oversteamed stalk of celery.

This is not to say that the vocalist is a one-trick pony.  The vocal range also dabbles in regrettable almost-clean singing passages that festoon a glistening Neur-Isis backdrop ("Corpse Paint), and some very oddball delay effects that leave him sounding like he fell into a well and decided to just go ahead and finish the record from down there ("You Fucking Fakes").  And there's even some bizarre, screeching girl vocals that accent the music the way a fine silver cock ring would class up a gentleman's unit for a night at the opera ("Following and Failing").  I imagine someone's girlfriend was dying to make her recorded vocal debut and she really knows how to deliver a top-notch beej.

With all the problems Bishop Kent Manning has, the music is still superlative and easily makes up for the few shortfalls and poorly-conceived artistic risks The Network took in its creation.  To see the music played live is one of the many things I would love to see; however, the last time I tried to go see The Network live, they were the first band on a bill with Strung Out and some other eighth-graders-only punk rock bands, and there's no way I'm going to pay $18 to go in and see the very first band play and then leave.  My hope is that The Network will be back soon with some more metal-friendly bands for me to fling my warm, soggy legal tender at.  Or at least some better punk bands.

If you're interested in hearing some great hardcore (or maybe it's really just regular old metal?), check out The Network on their Myspace or follow their Blogspot for up-to-date tips and info (possibly).  Since they just got home from Asia, perhaps they'll grace the mean streets of Austin again and allow me to justify seeing them live.

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