I had a friend named Mike Rogers who introduced me to -(16)- around 1996 through his zine, Sociopathic Despair. He said it best. To paraphrase, he wrote something like; "I've heard -(16)- described as hardcore, doom, sludge and even power-violence. The truth however is that -(16)- are just mean."
He was right. It's nearly impossible to nail -(16)- down to a specific genre. Comparisons to early Helmet, the first record from Fudge Tunnel, Eyehategod and the short-lived band Pulkas all come to mind. For me, though, -(16)- are defined by groove. I've always liked to describe them as Groove-core. There are hooks, riffs and down-tuned aggression that would emasculate all of the bands -(16)- are often compared to on their best day. Add vocalist & lyricist Cris to the mix, and it becomes a massacre. The man sounds like a hardcore vocalist of the caliber of John Brannon filtered through Satan's own PA system. His lyrics are what Charles Bukowski might have written if he'd seen the streets of Los Angeles and the Orange County Medical Center's Psych Ward through the fevered eyes of Hieronymus Bosch. The music isn't always slow. It isn't always fast. With each band member bringing influences as diverse as hardcore, punk, metal and grindcore, the only thing you can assume about -(16)- is that their music is always mean.
I've now been listening to their latest, Bridges to Burn for a solid month. I've played it in excess of twenty times, I've ingested it, thought about it, played the -(16)- back catalog then returned to BTB for further study, and I can honestly say, as a long time fan, this is the perfect -(16)- record. It's a 10 on every level. Production and engineering are a 10, and whoever mixed this record should be on top of the industry, because you can hear every instrument and Cris' vox seamlessly, which isn't easily done with heavy, relentless music. It really is a perfect mix. BTB sounds like -(16)- had a major label recording budget. I don't think Rick Rubin could have made it sound any better. This is also the perfect, absolutely definitive -(16)- lineup. Founding members Jason Corley on drums, Cris Jerue on voice and Bobby Ferry on the guitar. While not a founding member, bassist Tony Baumeister was the first full time bass player the band had and has proven to be the definitive one. This is the -(16)- line-up. Period. It's definitive, and they have never been tighter than on this record. Cris sounds like he's bringing up blood on every track. All the songs kill and the record is balanced perfectly. Lyrics are tight. Most importantly and most impressive is that there's an energy and attitude on this record that no engineer could have fabricated during the production process. It had to come from the guys behind the music and words. On this record these guys were totally switched on and crushing with perfect symbiosis. Bridges to Burn is the perfect -(16)- record. Thank you to label Relapse Records for finally treating this band with respect and ensuring that BTB will be distributed properly and easy to find.
There's not a weak track in sight, but if you want my choices for most punishing aural assaults, just start with "Skin and Bones", follow it up with "Me and My Shadow" and "Man Interrupted". By the time you get to "Monday Bloody Monday", with the most vicious chorus on the disc, you should be scraping yourself up off the floor with a spatula right in time to have your teeth knocked out by "Permanent Good One".
On January 20th, the record of the year for 2009 was released. It's as simple as that.