It’s easy to take for granted the emotional and physical catharsis that a good hardcore record can bring about. After all, it’s over fifteen years since Jane Doe sent seismic shocks through the hardcore scene, and bands are still taking plenty of leads from that mighty album. Sometimes though, a record comes out from the underground that hits you right there, taking you by surprise with its strength and honesty. Your Mess As Much As Mine by Swedish trio Oak has done just that, and whilst there’s no ignoring the influence of bands like Botch and Converge on their sound, there’s enough nuance and more than enough sincerity here for Oak to have an identity all of their own.
The shortest of feedback-drenched introductions sets the scene before ‘Broken Bodied’ gets the EP going properly, and it’s a hell of a start. Stabbing guitars, pounding drums, and impassioned vocals are unleashed in a bloodletting torment, with a bass-led moment of respite appearing later on in the song prior to the dramatic climax. It’s an impressive, passionate start, and the rest of Your Mess As Much As Mine builds upon the momentum it starts with. The record races by in a devastating blur of speed and emotion, whilst slow, almost Neurosis-esque movements – such as during the end of ‘Garden’ and midway through ‘For Better Or Worse’ – are even more devastating for how they contrast with the surrounding sections. It’s also worth highlighting how natural even shift feels, and that they feel completely organic rather than being inserted for variety’s own sake. I especially like the use of dual vocals throughout the record, a technique that too few bands employ. They really hammer home the desperation and urgency of the songs, in a style that is superb. I’m also especially fond of the doom-laden closing section on fourth track ‘Elsewhere’, which would do many Black Sabbath and Cathedral worshiping bands proud.
It all comes to a head on closer ‘Family And Friends’, which is just shy of six minutes long – practically an epic for this type of music. It never feels bloated or longer than it needs to be though, with Oak demonstrating strong song-writing and a knowledge of how to build and unleash tension, in addition to delivering short blasts of rage.
It’s difficult to critically assess Your Mess As Much As Mine, given how easily it sweeps you up in its emotional ride, drawing you in to its headspace and making you feel exactly what the band are feeling. But maybe, that’s assessment enough – there’s some records that shouldn’t be judged on the strength of their riffs or whatever, but instead on how potent their emotional pull is. As such, it’s hard to argue against Your Mess As Much As Mine. I’d prefer it to be a touch longer – 17 minutes isn’t quite long enough – but that’s the only real complaint I can level against the record. It is emotionally and musically devastating, doing justice to its influences whilst also giving Oak a distinct identity and sound of their own. Absolutely great stuff.
Your Mess As Much As Mine can be ordered via Truthseeker Music (UK), Hydrogen Man Records (USA) and State of Mind Recordings (USA) on black, white, or red 12″ vinyl. It can also be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.