With the recent release of their five-song demo titled As Unmarked Graves; they have, in my opinion, set the standard for modern day, true, "spirit-filled hardcore." I am always pretty hesitant on jumping on-board with any Christian hardcore band of today because I have found that with the decline of the traditional Christian hardcore bands of the 90's and even the early 2000's, most of whom are featured on this blog, Christian hardcore bands today just aren't doing something right. It's not that I am some sort of "elitist" when it comes to hardcore, or even music in general, which I have been called; but that Christian hardcore is something that I continue to have a soft-spot for when it is not only
done right, but done for the right reasons. I have never been able to
put my finger on exactly what specific attribute I am thinking of, but it is a trait that when lacking, a Christian hardcore band will not succeed in either the hardcore scene or in spreading the Word. After listening to this demo though, and speaking with Clint; I have discovered that Jawbone, a band hailing from only a few hours away from me, is the exception to this decline.
Now, typically I would have looked at my initial conversation with Clint as just another Christian hardcore band trying to make it big while sticking to their Faith, but I knew there was something different at play here. I wouldn't necessarily consider Jawbone a ministry band like many older Christian hardcore bands claimed to have been, but I would
definitely look at them as a Christian hardcore band that is playing for the right reasons. Their lyrics are very straightforward about with whom their Faith lies in a very blatant fashion, yet I found myself rather overwhelmed with the same feelings I got when I heard old Christian hardcore bands for the first time when I was much younger. Being a Christian who hates the preachy, shove-down-others-throats mentality of the common perception of modern day Christianity just as much as an Atheist or "God-Free" kid would today; I find Jawbone's lyrics on this demo to be more refreshing than the common complaint made against Christian lyrics of being nothing but "preaching to the choir." These lyrics, the attitude, and their expression give me more of a sense of praise and worship rather than preach, preach, preach, but all while (being presented alongside hardcore music) in a "fire-and-brimstone" sort of fashion. Pretty rad actually. Jawbone definitely does not hesitate to present believers and non-believers hardcore music with a message.
Musically, I have found this demo pretty addicting. I will admit that when I first put this into my stereo, I was just breezing through it (sorry Clint!). As I looked again at the artwork for the demo, which I will discuss in a bit, I was reminded of how DIY this is and how legit this band's presentation is in my eyes. Later that day I left town to visit my parents and reminded myself to bring the demo along with me. I meant to give it my undivided attention in the hour-plus car ride out east of the city, but didn't even put it into the CD player. I honestly just have a difficult time giving hardcore bands the time of day anymore. Let's just say that I am glad I did the reverse with this demo.
When I finally arrived at my parents' home where I knew I would be sitting around for awhile, I figured I would go ahead and spend the 10 minutes on the demo and really give it a good listen.
From the start, I knew that whether a Christian band or not, this was a hardcore band that will stand out from all the others. A raw recording, classic hardcore style vocals (a true yell/scream rather than a developed beastly sound); and song structure that sets them apart from any typical hardcore sub-genre with moments of chaos, fast punk beats, tough-guy sounding heavy parts, and even slow, gloomy moments; has made me revisit this five-song demo several times since my first listen.
The first song, and title track of the demo, "As Unmarked Graves, is the best example on the demo of the span of hardcore sub-genres Jawbone tackles with ease. The song starts chaotic, gets fast, gets heavy, and gets you ready for the gloominess of the following track all under two minutes. Impressive.
After many, many listens; I have come to the conclusion that the tracks that appealed to me most and I continue to listen to first each time I listen to the demo, are the second and third songs, titled "Be Not Afraid" and "Benedictus." My reasoning for this is that "Be Not Afraid" presents a message in such a dark fashion and as it shoots into "Be Not Afraid", you're left with just being totally stoked that you have the demo. I love it.
Lastly, the artwork rules. In my eyes, there is nothing better than when hardcore bands releases demos and eps that display the very essence of the DIY ethic. Single fold booklet within the clear plastic sleeve. Black and white, simple artwork covering the front and back while the insides features just text. I still pick up albums like this when I see them in record stores just because I can relate so heavily to what the band is doing. To me, it really sums up the package.
Overall, the demo is solid. I will listen to this demo over almost any of today's hardcore records, especially Christian hardcore records, any time I am looking for something to jam to. The vocals are a great fit for the musical style with an especially raw sound to them that makes the lyrics sound that much more profound. The guitar work on the recording is raw as well, but tight with the very traditional and heavy style drumming. What I really appreciate about the music and the recording of this demo is the lack of over-production that is heard on a lot of today's hardcore, but at the same time doesn't sound like amateur hour like many bands that do lack over-production. It's perfect, really.
Jawbone, whether they last long or not, will make a major impact on the Christian hardcore scene, if not the entire the hardcore scene, if they keep at it the way they are. Superb hardcore music with a real Christian message is just a hint of what this demo brings to the table. I feel blessed to have been contacted by Clint and look forward to seeing them play in the future and having my band join them on shows. Go see them play the few dates they currently have listed for the month of August. Hit up the band on MySpace and download the demo. If you like what you're hearing, go to a show and buy the demo for only $3. Please comment, I would love to know what everyone thinks!