Third albums are not places in which hardcore bands normally thrive. In fact, 90 percent of hardcore bands don’t even make it to the third record. Half of the remaining bands that make it there do not do so until after the reunion tour, and half of the remaining half inevitably turn out a piece of work that alienates their fan-base by either sounding exactly the same as they did before, or by massively deviating from their old sound. It’s a fine line for even the most-seasoned of veteran bands.
Paint it Black’s mastermind, Dr. Dan Yemin (seriously, the guy has his PhD. in child psychology), is not just any hardcore veteran, however. Prior to starting Paint it Black in 2002, Yemin was the creative force behind Philadelphia hardcore legends Lifetime and Kid Dynamite, but he didn’t make it to a proper third record with either act (although Lifetime did release a third album last year, but it was ten years after their break-up). Paint it Black is Yemin’s band as he serves as the principal songwriter, vocalist and occasional guitarist, enabling him to assert more control over the sound and feel of the band than he ever could in Lifetime, Kid Dynamite or Armalite, his short lived collaboration with Atom Goren of Atom and His Package.
The band’s 2003 debut clocked 17 tracks in under 19 minutes, and was lauded as one of the best, straightforward hardcore records of the 21st century. 2005′s "Paradise" destroyed any notions of a sophomore slump, and managed to take a few big chances with the traditional hardcore formula the band had become affiliated with. The band’s latest record, "New Lexicon," continues in the tradition of its predecessor, and pushes the stagnating genre to the brink of recognition.
"New Lexicon" is angry in a way few records are, but it’s not without a reason. Throughout the course of the record, Yemin rages against the injustices of organized religion, the nation’s troubled political climate and the general apathy of today’s youth. Yemin’s lyrics are short, sharp and hit like a ton of bricks. Lines like, "God can’t touch us now / We’re out of his jurisdiction" are some of the most poignant and hard-hitting lyrics that hardcore has ever offered, and Yemin’s voice, a combination of Henry Rollins in his heyday and Rob Wright of NoMeansNo fame, tears through every song with a painful conviction.
Yemin isn’t the only star of the show this time around, though. Bored with the unremarkable production normally seen in punk documents, Yemin enlisted the help of The Oktopus, the critically acclaimed producer for hip-hop/shoegaze/industrial/metal group, Dalek. The production is really what makes this album so daring in terms of hardcore. Underneath the pummeling drumwork and frenetic guitars are approximately 53 layers of dense, atmospheric, electronic noise swelling under every note. The complex production adds a completely new dimension to songs like "Gravity Wins" and "So Much for Honour Among Thieves," which are strong songs to begin with. Despite all the studio-based production, the record still sounds more live than a lot of the punk rock listeners are likely to hear today.
The record really finds its strength in the opening and closing tracks. The one-two punch of "The Ledge" and "Four Deadly Venoms" stands tall with past Yemin openers like "Turnpike Gates" into "Young, Loud, & Scotty" from Lifetime’s sophomore effort, "Jersey’s Best Dancers" or "Pause" into "K05-0564" from Kid Dynamite’s self-titled debut. "The Ledge" bursts out of the gate amidst a cloud of feedback and white noise before closing out with a pogo-worthy breakdown that almost sounds like vintage Joy Division. Just when fans think they’ve had a moment to breathe, "Four Deadly Venoms" pulls them back in with a loaded chorus comprised of the singular line, "I’ve got a chronic defect in my head." The chorus is only one of the moments in the record where you swear you can feel Dan Yemin’s spit hitting you in the face.
The crowning jewel to the record is the album’s closer, "Shell Game Redux," which is greatly reminiscent of the "Paradise" closer, "Memorial Day." The build-up to the end of the song at about the 1:15-mark will have one cowering in fear of what’s to come, and once it gives way to the outro’s truly epic "whoa-ohs," it’s clear that what was just heard will almost definitely become a landmark record in the evolution of hardcore music, bridging the gap between the old school and modern technology, giving birth to an entirely different kind of sound that will likely go unrivaled for years. Or until Paint it Black drops album number four.