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Almost without exception, Four Hundred Years songs begin with the beautiful, vaguely emotive introductions that have become the trademark calm-before-the-storm of modern hardcore. As it meticulously lights each new firecracker, this Richmond quartet emerges from formulaic traps by way of sheer attention to detail. The songs on Transmit Failure build up playfully, teasing in and out across a wide range of musical complexity as if to establish that the band is capable of more than just screaming rage and chugga-chugga rah-rah assault. Meandering, undistorted guitar bits and clean, serenely whispered vocals draw attention to the ever-burning fuse as it becomes obvious that the band can barely restrain the impending explosion. Even as it unwinds—and it does so spectacularly—Four Hundred Years flirts and pauses on its way to getting really pissed off, refining the twitchy, blistering hardcore of Suture, the band’s vinyl-only debut album. The new take is one of managed unlistenability, a balanced mix of expansive musical exploration and straight-ahead fury. Top-notch production value at the hands of Jawbox veteran Jay Robbins helps shape the record into a well-crafted bundle, occasionally to the point of doing roundabout injustice to the band’s raw charm. Lyrically, Four Hundred Years covers the territory of anguished adolescence: truth, trust, betrayal, dreams, love, lies. “Power of Speech” and “Line Breaker” are the best efforts, bracketing the album with thoughtful, reflective sonic attacks. A line from the former, “Hopeless, but fighting still” echoes later in the optimistic energy of the triumphant title track (“I just want you to say it/and I’ll notice, now…”) and “Sequence” (“I’ll wait it out, I’ve got nothing but time”). In the underground, the most interesting music happens at the periphery; Four Hundred Years’ live basement hardcore shows offer stronger evidence of this maxim than their polished studio recordings. The band, I’m told, is currently touring Japan. It’s hard not to wonder what the Japanese make of them.—Colin Bane