Reviews

Thirdface, Do It with a Smile (Exploding in Sound Records, 2021)

According to proverb, our truest self is known as the third face, our most intimate and unshared visage.

For today’s purposes, however, I’m gushing excitedly about another Thirdface.

This unit takes the form of a formidable, confrontational, and wildly adventurous hardcore punk band that hails from Nashville.

Do It with a Smile is both the band’s debut long player and first since joining a gloriously eclectic Exploding in Sound Records roster that includes Pile, Ovlov, and Big Ups.

On the back of the fittingly righteous indignation of their 2018 demo “a demonstration of righteous aggression” and a smattering of equally essential singles, their new album was an already exciting proposition.

After seemingly endless back to back digital spins, I’m thoroughly hooked.

Thirdface is set to make waves, albeit crashing and violent ones. 


Since joining the Brooklyn-based label that highlights the frankly uncategorizable, it’s a logical landing spot for a group peddling extreme music that refuses to stand still. Amongst a cadre of similarly “difficult to hem in bands," the bands they’ve split stage space with is equally eye-popping.

Having decimated fan faces alongside Full of Hell, Show Me the Body, Primitive Man, and Thou, a post-COVID world would find Thirdface as likely to bolster a hardcore basement show as they would opening for Converge. This unique elasticity puts them in the driver’s seat of a dangerously fast car. Let’s get to it!

At barely North of 20 minutes, Thirdface manages more with their signature brew than most do in twice the runtime. Incorporating everything from blackened hardcore, brusing post-punk, and straightahead hardcore punk, it’s all doused in thick swaths of noise-laden muck.

The tar-thick coating lends a sense of tightly coiled chaos to an otherwise already bruising affair. As if intent on shirking genre conventions, they’re as likely to pummel you as they are to pull back into disquieting passages of nauseous Am-Rep worship.

One needn’t look any further than the mutilated end section of “Ally” for a taste of their approach that’s culled from far afield subgenres. It’s a scabrous and wildly experimental framework that the band operates within, befitting of an album highwatermark that skewers the inherent problems of vacated allyship.

All comers are confronted here. Case in point is lead single “Villains," an enthralling mixture of staccato hardcore with a battery of throat-shredding primal screams courtesy of frontperson Kathryn Edwards, whose performance here should rattle the cage of anyone benefitting from  exploitation of the working class.

Lyrically, it’s an incendiary match for the sonic bruising, examining everything from the hamster wheel of labor in a capitalist society, false allyship, and of being a Black person in the Southeast. Musically, it does an admirable job of upselling the listener on a dizzyingly good album.

Photo: Diana Zadlo 

Featuring the first taste of a perpetually lumbering bass, they add mountains of distortion painted with sinister sheen. Not sure if it makes much sense, but it feels as if I’m looking at an inverted rainbow, the beauty itself an uncanny accident.

Crammed in are speedy, feral blasts of drums and bent guitar lines, seemingly sent to deconstruct the idea of guitar. Atop it all is a skiterry and brilliant performance by the rhythm section, most notably the cymbal work. 

Edwards puts on an absolute clinic, conjuring images of someone swallowing the microphone and dousing it in layers of bilious phlegm, as furious as it is disgusted. Look at “Customary'', another highlight among many, to preview just how densely layered their madness actually is.

There are flashes of brilliance that’d likely be the anchor of an entire song in the hands of other bands that, instead, Thirdface drop as instantly as they pick them up. The end ultimately gives way to a collective primal yawp. It’s the sound of liberation in the name of hardcore punk. 

When the band plays it a bit more down the line, the results are every bit as thrilling. Both “Locals” and “Grasping at the Root” are bangers. The former a noisy and angular smash and grab that sways violently and rides an almost arrhythmic drum and bass pattern into a blastbeat conclusion.

The latter finds the band at their most straightforward and rampaging, casually tossing in both a two-step section and harrowing creepy crawl. There’s a brilliant sidewinder of a guitar riff that’d be Every Time I Die’s strongest single. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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My favorite thing about the LP is unquestionably their ability to deftly fuck with tempo. Not altogether dissimilar, they approach song structures with a touch of the old power violence playbook.

They vaccilate between grinding hardcore speeds and something far less blazing. I hesitate to call it sludgy, but the mangled mid-pace fits them swimmingly.

Peep the appropriately wicked “No Requiem for the Wicked” if you need a fix. If a brief and merciful respite is what you seek, check the far-from-delicate strains of “Interlude” which, if you’ll have it, will worm its way into your senses with an equally sinister charm.

“No Hope” and its rotten mid-tempo twin “No Relief” is a one-two of isolationist pugilism. The latter is a slow-motion jawbreaker of a closing track. 

GET. THIS. RECORD. You’re welcome in advance.

Side note, please also check out Drkmttr Collective, a DIY venue run by vocalist Edwards that has transformed into a free store/fridge for the community, providing vital mutual aid for neglected areas. 

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