On Sight, Cause of Pain (Unbeaten Records, 2020)

I’ve long run dry on superlatives for the sort of world-ending heaviness that Unbeaten Records peddles.

The New York-based label touts a Murderers’ Row as punishing as the ‘27 Yankees, though the Ruth/Gehrig I’m referring to is usurped by All Out War and Stigmata. Rounding out the metallic hardcore lineup is Orthodox, Bruise, Thirty Nights of Violence, Boundaries, Purgatory, and No Victory, among others; Unbeaten Records stands heretofore unchallenged a la DiMaggio’s own unbeaten record (I’m clearly missing the MLB season). 

Given their consistent spate of fearsome releases, their latest is an expectedly top-tier scorcher. Cause of Pain by New Jersey’s On Sight.

Off the back of their eponymous 2017 EP and the following year’s “Fading Out” single, the band’s label debut is a crushing testimonial to metallic hardcore.

Aesthetically, the graffiti-lean of the Garden Staters should also pique the interest of those given to New York’s “Urban Styles.” 

There are few better ways to perk ears than with imposing feedback and the sort of crossover thrash squeal that introduces lead track “Without You.” It’s only merely stoking the fire, it seems, as the first venomous vocal devastates. They embrace a violent blend of thrash and death, albeit raised in the shadows of NYHC.

The band was clearly informed by their “it takes a village” hardcore education, coming to age under the tutelage of a local scene that produced E.Town Concrete, Years Spent Cold, Incendiary, King Nine, and Suburban Scum. Dealing with the sort of loss profiled in the lyrics, their third state aggression is clearly a cathartic-minded brand of pummel as indebted to hard scrabble existence as the reflection it earns. 

Lead single “Expired” is a deftly performed amalgam of Teutonic thrash and the bludgeoning hXc of 100 Demons, Merauder, and Death Threat. They incorporate everything from perfectly placed gang vocals to shockingly skilled fretboard acrobatics not altogether unlike something from Bonded by Blood. Peep the band’s video for the cold-hearted track, entrusted to our inimitable friend Kurt Fowles of Sirius Cinema:

Immediately following is “Best Bet.” Riding in on a sample from “Fight for Your Right” the nod to the Beasties has little in common with the hardcore delinquents cum rap titans other than a similar desire to “kick it.” One would guess they’re perhaps referring to something less party-hearty, but On Sight sounds like they’re at least toasting to the end times. Metallic hardcore, when done to this standard, is endlessly enthralling and exciting.

“Out of Time” alternates between two realities, the first of which is straightforward metallic hardcore beatdown. Again, they find time for guitar heroics that tip the old hat to Hanneman or Hammett, but unlike those titans, they briefly flash and disappear into suffocating walls of crushing urban groove akin to Madball. The song ends on a slick back and forth between staccato rhythm guitar and splashing cymbals, as if their two distinct leanings are conversing excitedly. 

On Sight, when stripped to their most primitive form, pen bangers like “Fire and Ice.” Perhaps the album’s most primal caveman sludge, they toss off a fleeting vocal melody that calls to mind Twitching Tongues as much their instrumental pugilism does Downpresser, Bent Life, or Dead End Path.

The back end features a low, creepy crawl of slithering bass that preempts their signature blend of devastation. At just shy of three minutes, the title track and second single has an “epic in miniature” vibe not unlike Shipwreck. Though it employs little more than a litany of knockout worthy punches in the form of riffs, the band excels at everything they attempt. Bemoaning the rough-ride policies of police abuse, On Sight keep their eyes set on true enemies. 

Photo: Steven Pedini

As a closer, “Dead Ends” plays like both cause of death and eulogy. Split neatly into two, the first 1:30 of the three minute runtime rocks thrash squeals, mosh-starters and a lurching false stop. When it picks back up after a brief fade out, there’s a playful sense of improv that gives the same sense of furious fun one gets from Never Ending Game’s latest LP.

On Sight is a deadly concern and has just thrown down the gauntlet on metallic hardcore in 2020. 

Pain is universal and their causes run the gamut. Let On Sight find your focus. Crucial record, y’all. 

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Tagged: cause of pain