Since forming in 2017, UK metallic hardcore mob Cruelty have released a series of splits, EPs and the odd single as well as fitting in a rigorous touring schedule. Their sound has been favourably compared to luminaries Botch and Converge, as well as Zao - though to merely describe them as inspired by, or worse as clones of, is to do them a great disservice. They’ve pricked up ears across the underground which gained them the attention of cult label Church Road Records who are fast making a name for themselves as underground tastemakers, signing the best and brightest across a myriad of genres.
Debut album There Is No God Where I Am takes the promise of their earlier work delivers on it in spades, offering a chaotic brand of metallic hardcore that feels tightly controlled without losing its inherent sense of danger and that things could go off the rails if the band were to loosen their grip. Opener ‘An Introduction’ does just that; vicious howls of the album’s title sit atop dissonant, sludgy guitar work and slow, pounding drums. It’s followed very quickly by ‘A Lie That Makes Life Bearable’, an altogether faster, but no less devastating, cut. Careening from a maelstrom of off-kilter drumming and breakneck, occasionally atonal riff work to quiet passages of a clean guitar and desolate howls, it’s an emotional gut punch that pulls none of its own.
Following on from this, ‘Spiritual War’ throws in the kind of dissonance that would make The Dillinger Escape Plan proud while retaining a distinctly punkier snarl. There’s a short, brutish breakdown just shy of the halfway point that quickly accelerates back to breakneck speed. Not comfortable to mess only with time signatures and speeds, the final seconds throws a curveball in the form of a melodic guitar solo. It’s an idea that’s echoed in ‘Dead Culture’ and only serves to underscore and enhance the chaos around them. It’s made all the more impactful in the latter by the sheer bug-eyed vitriol that surrounds it, a veritable tornado of angular riffing and rage.
Arguably one of the shining moments on There Is No God Where I Am is its incredibly ambitious title track, a sprawling seven minute number. All jagged edges, frenetic riffs and drumming to begin with, it morphs into a sludge-driven dirge that reminiscent of Eyehategod in their doomier moments. The resulting quiet passage that sees the band bring in strings and classical influences should feel a lot less incongruous than they do, testament to their ability to meld a variety of sounds and textures into a cohesive whole that still feels intensely angry - or at least like the calm before the storm.
It’s clear why they were snapped up by a label with such a cult following. Their sound is both immediately recognisable as taking influence from metallic hardcore, while still being transgressive in their desire to meld disparate influences. They take a huge variety of sounds, from post-rock interludes in the title track to the furious Dillinger-esque chaos at work in cuts like ‘Spiritual War’ and the stomping d-beat of ‘To The Ground’. Only on their debut but with a remarkably well-formed sound, Cruelty are proof that the UK underground is in rude health. If you like abrasive, dissonant metallic hardcore that isn’t afraid to pull any punches, you need to be listening to Cruelty.