Joshua Fit For Battle were one of those emotionally aggressive mid-90’s screamo bands that music pundits with 75 mm stretchers in their ears like to refer to as “Skram’’. Skram is basically a term coined online to differentiate between scream bands that girls like, and screamo bands that don’t make money. Despite genre politics, Joshua Fit for Battle’s “To Bring Our Own End” stands as one of screamo’s highpoints, artistically. The 11 tracks unleashed on Shock Value Records are as bitter and emotionally unrelenting as the steely stare of a new widow.
A rolling ebullition characterises this release; a frayed sense of chaos overwhelming. A grating duality, focused on pairing doe-like melodies and cacophonic clangour, shows the frenzied passion of a band who at any moment seems as if they will be swallowed by the barely contained chaos like a screaming extra in The Blob (1958). Opener “Blood Money” sets the agenda with a bullet. Furious, swift riffing gives way to a light dance of melody, before hoarse wails once more usher in the stormy, disorienting guitar.
Songs like “Contents of an American History Class” have the same spirit of experimental progressiveness that Larry Flynt must have had when he invented nudity, bouncing always from jazzy drum fills, to marzipan sections of harmony, back to ugly punk. (The song even includes nearly 13 minutes of silence, before picking up with the eerie vitriol without ceremony). It seems that any subtler section is condemned to a frenzied death before it begins the lighter parts in “Dreams” shadowed by a distorted fatalism. Occasionally the band picks up a black metal influence; an atmospheric malice that occasionally creeps into the guitars, as in the last verses of “Fuck the Men in Her Life”- the cold hatred palpable.
There’s barely any remittance from the desperation and melancholy of this album. Joshua Fit For Battle play music that is chaotic and as dark as a pupil. The structure of the song can often become clouded behind the almost unregimented fusillades of chaos; a traumatic hint of real feeling. Angsty vitriol spews from every lyrical utterance. Ranging from the religious and political (Catholic Skool, American History Class) to the fiercely personal (Fuck the Men in Her Life, Sleepwalker’s Guide), Joshua Fit for Battle write lyrics to incite riot. Never sanctimonious, they represent a vigil-ante like hatred for injustice in terse screams.
Never over-contrived and never formless mess, Joshua Fit for Battle’s ‘To Bring Our Own End’ is a seminal screamo/ emotional hardcore album for devotees. Never does it sound remotely like the complaining whinge of brattish mid-western high-schoolers featured in monthly glossies, which can only be a good thing. It’s an album that, with a compass made of fury, always points toward catharsis.