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In less than 20 minutes, Pure Disgust’s self-titled full-length debut packs in the amount of righteous fury and technical prowess that many hardcore bands would be lucky to achieve over the course of an entire career. Years of different communities of color mobilizing to protest acts of shocking state violence—against them and others—fuel vocalist Rob Watson’s lyrics, particularly on “Normalized Death” (“It happens day after day after day/ I’m not sure what more I can say”). Watson has a lot more to say, of course: about the systemic criminalization of children of color in “Pipeline,” or the subsequent conviction-by-media in “Slander Me.”
Watson delivers these messages with the fire and visceral energy befitting a matter of personal survival. It’s a message whose delivery is not that dissimilar from G.L.O.S.S.’s Trans Day of Revenge, the new EP from Pure Disgust’s West Coast summer tour mates. In both instances, the bands take the violence and severity inflicted on the marginalized and unflinchingly spits it right back. With the exception of an untitled minute-long instrumental, Watson is a commanding presence on every track, never obscured by the twin-guitar attack and the band’s ferocious rhythm section.
But this is hardcore, and if you want people to come to your revolution, you have to be able to slam to it. There’s never a moment on Pure Disgust—lyrically or instrumentally—where inaction feels appropriate.
Pure Disgust’s blend of Oi! street punk and late-’80s hardcore will recall acts like New York’s Life’s Blood or the mid-aughts D.C. stompers 86 Mentality, the latter being a particularly huge influence on Pure Disgust and the participants in the scene’s New Wave of D.C. Hardcore. Ryan Abbott’s recording at Side Two records in Boston (a cornerstone of the city’s own very fertile punk and hardcore scene) provides the thundering drums, howling guitars, and driving bass the showcase they deserve, best exemplified in the breakdown a minute into “Slander Me.” You can almost hear a stampede of boot soles or see arms swinging in the rolling drums and bassline before Watson bellows “When will brown bodies get the respect they deserve?” as the guitars dive-bomb back in.
The album is no less impressive when it slows down. The guitar heroics on the ever-so-slightly lower-tempo moments of “Lost Child” or “White Silence” can evoke British Heavy Metal’s New Wave as much as D.C. hardcore. Luiso Ponce’s monochrome drawing of some unseen force crumbling D.C. landmarks into oblivion (evoking a combination of the iconic lightning bolt-striking-the-Capitol art on Bad Brains’ self-titled LP and Breakdown’s Running Scared) provides an accurate snapshot of how the album feels: Regardless of the pace or volume, nothing in the band’s path seems like it could possibly withstand the assault.
At least some members of Pure Disgust can be found playing every week in their innumerable other projects, or putting together shows for touring bands. It’s almost impossible to write a story on the state of hardcore in the District without mentioning at least one of them, and it doesn’t require a leap of imagination to suggest Pure Disgust’s LP will be a touchstone in the continuing D.C. hardcore canon. In its second release on New York label Katorga Works, Pure Disgust have affirmed its commitment not just to building the contemporary D.C. hardcore scene but keeping it on the map, and the album’s combination of thematic urgency and compelling songwriting will make it hard to ignore in any assessment of contemporary hardcore.
Given the album’s short running time (this is a hardcore band, after all), it may be hard to listen to the band fade out in “White Silence” without wanting more. But then again, a fade out is the only way an album like this can appropriately end. The fight isn’t over, and Pure Disgust—as a band and as members of a thriving scene—seem like it’s only getting started. What better way for Pure Disgust to go out than like it came in: still raging.