It’s unlikely that I’m introducing you to Boundaries, but the quality demands I do it anew.
The Connecticut-based gaggle of heavies have been drawing both looks and growing crowds for the last 5 years. Shit, their 2019 EP, My Body in Bloom, actually charted, whatever that means in 2020.
The band’s fluid moniker this time proves to be one of deft flexibility and evolution, challenging the borders of their lawless and chaotic metalcore, the edges of which continue to artfully expand.
Still on display are the anxiety-riddled flashes of mangled panic chords and breakdown assisted devastation, but Boundaries have tacked on tasteful shows of growth that keep the long player enthralling throughout its runtime.
Again handled by Unbeaten Records, their debut full-length, Your Receding Warmth, is another jewel in the aptly-named label’s crown. Having shared stages with the likes of Knocked Loose, Acacia Strain, and Currents; the band sits well alongside the punishing nü hardcore of label mates Orthodox and Thirty Nights of Violence.
It’s a decidedly current sound that thoroughly plumbs the depths of early '00s metalcore and hardcore. With nods to everything from All Out War, Disembodied, and Turmoil to the sort of modern heavyweights peppering the Pure Noise roster, Boundaries are helping to move the goalposts for heavy music.
From the first moments, it’s abundantly clear that this crew from the “Land of Steady Habits” has put in the time. Opener “Is Survived By” starts with a surgically precise slashing, the surgical precision lending their brutality a deliberate sense.
Boundaries' densely layered and massive sound flaunts everything from fast-picked thrash riffing to the melodic underpinnings of early ‘oughts metalcore.
Still posting up are their trademark walloping breakdowns, barely breaking the album’s first half minute before the first jarring appearance. The title lyric is repeated ad nauseum as the song fades… most bands courting heavy hardcore would be content with a legacy that birthed similar savagery.
“Fade Away” shows no mercy despite it’s comparatively slower intro, finding its Pantera-like groove at odds with something a bit more nuanced. A djent-less Meshuggah, if you will.
Strangely, it’s opening run feels most akin to the seldom (if ever) referenced Slayer LP Diabolus in Musica, often wrongly dubbed a misstep. Tell me the opening doesn’t give off major “Bitter Peace” vibes which is a major compliment in my world.
Ultimately, Boundaries’ best talents similarly celebrate all points south of heaven, the vocal trade offs and pummel they peddle are absolutely devilish. They blend well a noisy pastiche aesthetic with meticulously assembled heavy hardcore. The three or so odd minutes reek of nihilistic anxiety.
Elsewhere, “Carve” more likely to cause familial strife than the fight over first dibs at the tofurkey, this def jam courts a distressing and relentless nervous energy. The guitars chase an alternately descending and ascending pattern, the unsettled suits them well.
Follow up “My Strength” hides PMA in its back pocket, touting the sort of violent self-confidence Hatebreed rode to their apex some 20 odd years ago. The perfect synthesis of rage and vanquished self doubt, Boundaries crib well from the Jasta lyric book, upending the standard fair of nihilistic resignation so often foisted upon extreme music.
Employed in much the way Stick to Your Guns rouse, Boundaries dissolve conflict with sheer power.
High watermarks abound across the LP. Case in point, the rhythmic avalanche that is the opening salvo of “Get Out.” It effectively paves the way for the Sisyphusian task of lifting anvil-heavy riffs across the track. Though sonically dissimilar, there’s a dash of Harm’s Way inhuman precision.
Also employed here are killer spoken word passages and, though delicate and understated here, the breakdowns feel like your chest caving in when they finally hit. This trick preempts the profoundly morbid spoken word comprising closer “From the Departed, Dear or Otherwise.”
Other towering moments are found on LP midpoint “Behind the Bend," which leads with a primitive hardcore bludgeon. It finds the band marrying straightforward chug with primitive cymbal smashes, they shoehorn a beautiful, cleanly sung passage a la Life of Agony. Their new flourishes of experimentation suggest a band unafraid to go in a, shall we say, nü direction.
Admittedly, Boundaries embrace the collective influence of their youth. Citing Linkin Park, Static X, and Slipknot; we’re reaping the rewards of the generation that grew up on these bands, however far a cry they are from the respective touchstones of our own early years.
All this to say, I’m grateful the end result doesn’t resemble Wisconsin Death Trip, but I’m grateful to any acts that informed their trademark fury.
The vocals here are at their most vicious, standing mostly alone atop a mangled backdrop of backwashed noise and feedback. Much like everywhere else across the album, it sounds absolutely massive.
With an opening riff that’d garner grins from Mastodon or High on Fire, “I’d Rather Not Say” swings wildly from thrash to a ride cymbal centered, metallic hardcore workout. The back end of this song is a gut punch that seques expertly into the album’s stunning centerpiece.
The album's title track is an all around stunner, as much a mood piece as it is a gauntlet for the band’s next venture. Starting with a rush of ambient menace, Boundaries ditch their standard brevity for the slow-build. The effect is dizzyingly perfect, especially for an economical band typically unbothered with taking their time.
It guides itself organically into more punishing terrain, feeling like the marriage of Gojira and aforementioned stage mates Acacia Strain. As mystical as it is malevolent, it’s a towering show of strength from an already killer band just starting to realize their powers.
This is the most punishing thing from Hartford since Torrie Robertson last enforced for the Whalers. Get on it.