Black Mercy, For the Man That Has Everything ((iN)Sect Records, 2020)

The Bill Shakespeare inspired “What’s In A Name?” feels particularly pertinent to the ripping new EP from Austin’s Black Mercy, For the Man Who Has Everything. Aside from being 10 minutes of essential ripping hardcore, also happens to be the namesake of the Alan Moore penned Superman Annual #11 in the '80s. In increasingly meta fashion, that superlative run also gifted us the parasitic plant known as “Black Mercy." 

Further on down the wormhole, this phrase also ends the oft-lamented “what to get for the man who has everything?” uttered every year around Father’s Day. As both a Man of Steel loyalist and legendarily bad gift giver to my pops, Black Mercy are a direct line to a litany of my interests, genetically modified to meet my tastes. 

The Texas band that just released the aforementioned For the Man Who Has Everything also happens to be comprised of perhaps the most varied group of musicians you’re likely to see. The stitched together scene vets have done time in acts as disparate as Employer, Employee (Joey Cortez), Butcher Bear (Ben Webster), Brick, Minority (Noble Brown) Those Peabodys (Clarke Wilson), and the Wayne’s World-baiting dreamweavers Tia Carrera (Jason Morales), among others.

Assembled as they are currently, these far afield influences come together seamlessly in a package that’s as immediate as it is disarming. Side note, check out Save it for the Breakdown, a hyper-local music podcast hosted by singer Noble Brown and his co-host, The Gersch. 

The collective DNA of Black Mercy runs the musical gamut in truly wild fashion. Admittedly taking inspiration, if not influence, from Negative Approach, Spazz, and the sound of Revolution Summer DC the band’s background and varied resumes are displayed all across the 8 tracks herein. They play bite-sized blasts of what’s ultimately hardcore punk, tossing in dashes of post-hardcore, power violence, noise rock, and blown-out garage rock. It’s an off-kilter pastiche that plays akin to genre whack-a-mole, with reference points emerging as quickly as they disappear. They somehow bring these surprising moments tastefully together in the way only “lifers” can.

Photo provided by Black Mercy

Opening track "Black Mercy" is as lethal as its telepathic plant namesake. From second one, it’s a noisy melange of hardcore punk based around a serpentine, disorientating riff. Vocalist Noble Brown, sounds downright ferocious and pained, the band’s nod to John Brannon seems most apt here, as the vocals stay set to “kill” throughout the entire proceddings.

The band, though, keeps shit unexpected and raucous. It’s a rad and perfectly odd start. Fear not, as “Take My Life” keeps it primal, as it features a caveman stomp. Not so much rudimentary as it is classic-sounding, they tweek it into a dazed and wobbly listen.. that swings violently into straightahead '80s USHC vibes. Perhaps these were the mood swings Robert Smith warned us about.

Which, fittingly, brings us to “You’ve Been Warned,” again a master class in not overstaying your welcome. Just as likely to threaten with a noisy breakdown as they are to pummel, they revel in style-mashing, never hanging in one lane very long before swerving erratically into the next. The fact that no immediate touchstones come to mind is a wonderful and increasingly rare thing, though the subsequent song “My World” is a sub minute rager that raises the black flag high. 

“Relic” mines first wave hardcore alongside the and more aggressive and discordant end of post-hardcore, albeit as if covered by The Oblivians. Elsewhere, Brown’s maniacal carnival barker shines alongside deceptively intricate instrumentation. Peep the bonkers bass work on both “This Can’t Be Right” and “PTSD.” While neither up front nor flashy, the rhythms run wind sprints along the fret board. God tier shit. As a closing track, “DNR” does nothing to dissuade me from joining the fray.

As per the band’s instructions, Do Not Resuscitate me, unless of course Black Mercy is playing. 

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