Deep inside Belgium lies Lotus, the Powerbar of Antwerp hardcore. In early December Lotus released their particular blend of pessimistic optimism, paradoxically digestible yet equally unsettling. Steering modern hardcore trends away from cheap nihilism, The Road to Calvary bites down a vicious chunk of hardcore spirit that raises my pulse, burning the excess fat that clogs my record shelf.
Within Lotus’s pessimistic tilt toward condemnation of the weak and misanthropic lives honesty, strength and resistance. These characteristics, proudly extolling hardcore as contrarian and defiant, draw new breath in The Road to Calvary. “The Weight,” shoots out of a cannon. Within, a biting call note establishes the album as nothing but heartily powerful. Ending their first song with the lyric, “Fuck your hopelessness” vents yet another subtle step inward for their brand of hardcore punk.
Lyrically subtle, Lotus shows more nuances that many native English bands. Their ‘measured language’ builds on Tennyson’s attempt to show the Word’s inadequate expression of grief. Their lyrics wrap in weeds dark poetry while the music stomps and grinds concise circles around hardcore’s grooviest and catchiest songs. When the songs are fast they mean to puncture, and beat staccato the point across; when the songs crawl along it is to emphasize inertia and seething viscosity.
Peel beneath the writhing cynicism, and you find an unwilling skepticism, a conscious diagnosis earnestly working away from misery. Go even further, and all thoughts inspired by the lyrics lead to a transcendence, expressed in the final lines of the album, 'Man among the mockers/Gold among the Maya/Love lives beyond.'
The album dances a fine line between honoring hardcore tradition, pushing it forward, and reflecting it inward. If tradition is honored too much, then The Road to Calvary risks sounding out of date, youthfully nostalgic, and too derivative. If they push the genre too far forward they risk stepping outside the boundaries of hardcore; and if it gets the balance of the first two wrong then the reflection is out of phase and inwardly it cancels out. If the balance is right, then the albums phase doubles and shines forth brightly.
Aside from the opening two tracks, The Road to Calvary also radiates in “The Blade”, and “The Cull”’s sublime lyrics, and stomping grooves. Because the record couples personal and social criticism, the listener feels neither lectured nor left out, but shown a thought path where personal faults cause toxic negativity to spread like disease. However the album suggests that same mithradatic dose of negativity directed inward is the cure.
At times some segments sound either underwritten, or monotonous. Likewise, albeit more sparsely, some choice lyrics phrased awkwardly soften an otherwise exceptional record. Overall the few scratches and scars blemishing the record give it an endearing character of original sin.
Although attractive to fresh ears, the record punishes the repeat listener. After one continuous play through I needed a break. Compared to more pleasant sounding records, the albums mastering tired my ears out, exhausting my patience despite the catchiness and groove flowing throughout.
Nevertheless, this album is what I love about hardcore: a distillation of what is within reach, boiling everything down to its essentials. No Fat. Minimal philosophy, no overreaching, just raw nuanced opinion told through frustration and anger. In the most mature way, it is a youthful voice to folk wisdom in the modern age.
For fans of Shipwreck A.D. and Dangers
7.9 / 10
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