The James Dean Trio – You Better Axe Somebody

The James Dean Trio
You Better Axe Somebody

I’m always hearing about bands who bridge the gap between metal and the new hardcore scene. Then, when I track down an album or a song, this description almost always translates into “bad metal accompanied by a gimmick that attracts scenester kids.” Irony and fashion usurp honest musical dedication, and the only people who play this music seriously are usually looked down on unless they are tying their lyrics to a cause such as veganism, preventing animal cruelty, or being straight-edge. In these cases, the fervor of the message usually outweighs any consideration the band may have given to their musical conception. Most performers of heavy music continue to work in a traditional speed metal/grindcore paradigm, the best continuing to push the genre while still working from within. The James Dean Trio are one of the few exceptions I have encountered that seem to have created a metal/hardcore hybrid by making their convergence feel inevitable. In doing so they will appeal to an audience who enjoys either the Skin-Graft sound (e.g. Arab on Radar) or black metal.

“You Better Axe Somebody,” starts off sounding similar to a lot of Japanese ‘spazzcore’ music, their over-the-top approach recalling early Boredoms, although without the extremes of vocal range. Two guitars strum frantically, playing similar but not identical lines – sometimes stepping on each other’s toes rhythmically. In between these bursts there are moments of a swinging beat often associated with hardcore (one guitar playing only on the up-beats) before the drummer returns to playing as fast as possible. This continues until a sort of bridge is reached, where the group sounds like they are going to fall apart, but instead stops to rest on a chord. Next, finger-tapped twin lead guitar harmonies usher in a more “serious” sounding section, with dark chords looming overhead, and a perfect accompaniment on drums – multiple rolls accented with the ringing chime of the innermost part of the cymbal while still emphasizing a groove. Finally, there is a call and response between two impenetrable vocalists as the guitars and bass thrash and thunder the song to a close.

Not exactly metal nor hardcore, this song is still a lot of fun.