Hundredth - Rare
If you’re a follower of melodic hardcore/metalcore, you probably know, or at least heard, of South Carolina based act, Hundredth. A band that has drawn dozens of comparisons (mostly to Counterparts), Hundredth has gone through three albums and two EP releases of aggressive yet emotional songs in their nine-year tenure as a band, but their latest release, Rare, throws what you know about Hundredth right out the window. Similar to the shake up A Lot Like Birds made with DIVISI, Hundredth make a complete 180 on their traditional sound and leave longtime fans dumbfounded. Screaming vocals, the rolling thunder of drums and chugging drop-tuned riffs are nowhere to be found. This is the new and improved Hundredth.
The album begins with “Vertigo,” a dark, upbeat track that channels the post-punk vibes of bands like The Church and The Jesus & Mary Chain mixed with the dreamy shoegaze atmosphere of My Bloody Valentine, whose influence you will hear all over the record and in just about anything shoegaze. Like the title, this track brings on feelings of tunneling vertigo, but in a good way, if that makes any sense. Amongst the dreary chords that burst into excitement, vocalist (and now rhythm guitarist) Chadwick Johnson’s voice fits quite well and destroys any doubt regarding his ability to deliver. Following “Vertigo” is “Neurotic,” the first single. From start to end, this track is filled with energy that doesn’t stop. It’s an up-front song that doesn’t drag and clearly shows that Hundredth hasn’t completely abandoned their punk/hardcore roots. Next up is “White Squall,” another fast-paced song reminiscent of English post-punk/new wave kings New Order and the Cure. The influences are dripping all over on the album so far, and it’s enjoyable.
“Hole” erupts with a spacey alt-rock vibe that can’t help but recall when Cave In wasn’t a metalcore band for awhile (deja vu, right?). What’s exciting about everything so far is that Hundredth is still riffy. Underneath the wall of sound and fury are those elements of Hundreth’s hardcore past life, tweaked for their new sound. Fifth track “Suffer” feels like “Neurotic” with a more laid back personality, which makes for a nice segue into the panicky “Disarray.” This song’s ostensibly metalcore lyricism blends better than expected when sung over the shoegazey instrumentals. Those invigorating riffs are present once again.
Calmly entering the halfway point of the album is “Down.” Particularly on this track, Lee Hutchinson’s drums are excellent despite being a bit buried underneath everything else in the mix. Interesting to note, there are screams at the end of this song, but as with the drums, they’re buried, this time a little more rightfully so. There’s nothing too notable about “Gray,” as it’s more or less the same as previous songs, and may be the “weakest” song on the album. “Shy Vein” makes up for it by continuing to emit those Cure vibes, and the hypnotic guitar tones bring on those euphoric feelings of driving late at night in pitch-black darkness, maybe on a highway or alongside a sleeping cityscape.
“Chandelier” closely follows the sonic tradition of the record, passing on its energy to the listener like electric currents. Johnson’s lyrics are somewhat brief and ambiguous, reminding me of Chino Moreno’s style without becoming too serious or cringey. I can’t get enough of them. Andre Minervini comes charging in with a rugged bassline on “Youth,” which evolves from an upbeat reverie to an adrenaline rush with simple but emotionally hefty words like, “Go home, lock the door. Put on something you’ve heard before.” Closing off the album is the fittingly-titled “Departure.” Whether it be Rare literally departing from your ears or Hundredth leaving hardcore behind, the song ends the album on a somber, reflective note shaped by Alex Blackwell’s twinkling notes backed up by wavy rhythms and a melancholy vocal delivery. It’s a rather great end to a great album, because as with most of the album, it’s straightforward, to the point, and not complicated for the sake of being complicated.
The production could have been tweaked a bit, but other than that small complaint, everything works smoothly. It feels less like a traditional record than a single, sustained vibe, and it works perfectly for this kind of material. Say what you will about the genre swap, but there is no doubt that this is a great release and one of the best of this year. Hundredth has simply moved on and done something new and true to themselves.
Standout tracks: Neurotic, Hole, Shy Vein, White Squall