Baptists- Bushcraft

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, December 8, 2014

While Baptists’ debut EP was able to hold my attention, aside from the slower sludgier/noise rock sections there wasn’t quite enough that truly stood out from the pack. It was clear the Vancouver hardcore band had plenty of potential, but at that point they didn’t quite have the songwriting to truly stand out from the others with a similar style. This changed with 2013’s Bushcraft full length, as Baptists used their full length to take a massive leap forward and deliver material that stands out from beginning to end. Every element the instrumentals showcased previously has been expanded upon, and with this full length it’s clear that this group has become a force to be reckoned with.

As with the self-titled EP, Bushcraft regularly shifts between fast paced, all-out ragers and slower breaks that blur the lines between sludge and noise rock. The difference this time around is that the songwriting shakes things up more frequently and the guitar work has standout moments even when the band is going full-speed. Baptists has taken that grittier, darker tonality and added some high flying riffs over top of it that at times is reminiscent of the type of unpredictable and constantly changing instrumentals that Converge is known for. It’s a subtle change that makes a big difference, as the fast numbers don’t blur together and the amount of specific moments that pop out and grab your attention make this an album with real staying power. With that being said though, I still find the instrumentals to be at their best when the band slows things down slightly. The increase in the amount of sludgier breaks and the jagged noise rock sounding riffs has made these guys sound genuinely different from some of their peers. This is best showcased on the five minute “Soiled Roots” where the guitars mellow out a bit and offer a slow burning groove that gets under your skin and never lets go. Bushcraft also boasts slightly better production values, as the sound has gotten a bit denser and the guitar/drum combo seems to hit even harder than before which gives the album some real impact.

Andrew Drury has been one of the group’s biggest assets since the very beginning, as his screaming style not only makes it easy to understand the lyrics but it isn’t quite exactly the same pitch that’s become so dominant in hardcore. As I noted in my previous review, the overall range is about somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between a growl and a higher pitched scream, but what I didn’t point out before was that there is a good amount of variation to the performance. Hardcore can be one of those genres where every single word the vocalist screams or growls comes off sounding almost exactly the same, resulting in quite a bit of repetition. But Baptists has once again avoided that on Bushcraft, as Drury’s screams rise and fall in perfect sync with the instrumentals. It’s one of those elements that may not seem like a big deal, but hearing the aggression ramp up to that peak level right as the guitars and drums go nuts makes a major difference.

At their core, Baptists are still making extremely pissed off hardcore that keeps the intensity going. But they’ve expanded upon some of the slower, brooding moments and upped the angular noise rock influences in a way that makes their material stand out much more than before. Bushcraft is the kind of hardcore record that can keep listeners fully tuned in for its entirety, and it’s fantastic to see this group take the ideas they seemed to be hinting at on their EP and run wild with them. If you missed out on this album last year like I did it’s worth grabbing to see what all the fuss was about, but be prepared because it hits hard.

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