Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pg. 99 - Document #8

Pg. 99 - Document #8

Punk rock should mean freedom. Liking and accepting anything that you like. Playing whatever you want, as sloppy as you want. As long as it’s good and it has passion.

When people think of punk rock, this might not be the first thing to enter your mind. This is a far cry from the Epitaph/Fat Wreck style of power chord punk that brought the genre back to the forefront of mainstream consciousness in the mid-90’s. There is no harmony here, no melodically repetitive rhythms to lull you into the feel-good rebellion. The music here has all the frantic qualities of a claustrophobic man buried alive, desperately scratching at the lid of his coffin to get out. Simply put, this is not meant to be a pleasant listen.

Pg. 99 formed on the outskirts of the D.C. hardcore scene in 1998, lasting five years and releasing a plethora of splits, singles, and EP’s in their short existence, as well as two full-length albums. Document #8 was their second full-length release, and in my opinion, their most mature as a group. Originally released in 2001, and later re-released in 2005, Document #8 sums up everything about the band into a nine song, twenty-eight minute assault. (Needless Side-note: I’m talking about the re-release time here, as that's what the file is. The last two tracks included, “The Lonesome Waltz of Leonard Cohen” and “The List” were both recorded after the initial release of Document #8, as part of a split with City of Caterpillar. These two songs were later included on the re-release of Document #8, after the band had already broken up.) With blistering sonic guitar patterns performed at furious speeds, accompanied by an equally vicious vocal assault on the listener, the optimum word here is “intense”.

A unique feature about this album, and one that distinguished the band as a whole from its contemporaries, is its featured 8-piece line-up. Boasting three guitars, two basses, two singers, and a drummer, Pg. 99 is unlike almost any punk band before it, focusing more on crafting dense, auditory layers that practically pummel the listener into submission. There is a frenetically forceful exhibition of sound on display here, strewn about between dark riffs and brooding silences. The vocals sound like they were completed under some horrific duress; every note is sung under the burden of some self-imposed torture, yet it still barely manages to penetrate the forceful wall of noise echoing throughout each track. In this way, the singing adds to the mood of the album, lending a sense of frustration that permeates the constant gloom of the guitars. It leaves the listener with a clear understanding of what the music represents, even if the lyrics are practically indecipherable.

With Document #8, Pg. 99 crafts one of the most passionately intense albums I have ever heard, and in the process, gave rise to many of the musical trends that would define emotive hardcore in the coming years. It’s dark, it’s (over)dramatic, and it acts as a full-blown fury of expression put into musical format. And despite the obvious discrepancies in sound, they still retain the spirit of punk rock, playing with speed, emotion, and an almost uncomfortable amount of passion and love for their music. You get the sense that this is what the musicians would rather be doing than anything else, and really, that’s all that matters.

Favourite tracks: In Love With an Apparition, The Hollowed Out Chest of a Dead Horse, The List

Document #8

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