Split Cranium packs an incredible, and more importantly, dynamic, amount of force into their 2018 I’m the Devil and I’m OK LP. Sonic dynamics and hardcore don’t always go together; the modus operandi of hardcore is often to go in one direction and one direction alone: louder, angrier, or whatever you prefer to call it. That works for plenty of artists, and there are plenty of worthwhile variations to that version of the framework, too.
On the newest creation from the star-studded Split Cranium, though, they’ve taken a familiar framework and pushed it to a new, different, and perhaps previously sorrowfully under-explored limit, crafting something truly fresh and new in the process.
Sometimes, taking a familiar framework a new direction is exactly what’s needed in the music community, and that’s precisely what I’m the Devil and I’m OK accomplishes. Faith Coloccia’s driving electronics work is an important aspect of the album; she provides a texture to the hardcore brutality wrought by others on the record, including her husband, Aaron Turner, and Converge’s Nate Newton. There’s an instrumental track on the record that features her playing front and center, and elsewhere on the album, her contributions create a unique sensibility. It’s as if the music has been detached from its base and is floating along atop the metaphorical bottom of her keyboard work. Keeping a boat docked gets old after all; the point is to take it out and explore.
From there, a number of aspects emerge. Turner’s vocals throughout the record are harsh and yet almost strangely melodic. Throughout the album, the various musicians who make an appearance maintain a similar brutal yet tight sense of melody. It’s as if they’ve drawn from their respective years of musical experience and compressed them down as much as they could before presenting their work to the listener. There aren’t really any overly dramatic flourishes on the album; the musicianship is just pure and unadulterated. I’m the Devil and I’m OK presents a metaphorical ZIP file containing the evolved version of each members’ takeaways from their years of involvement in such high profile acts as Converge, ISIS, and Circle.
Rather than falling off the edge here or there, Split Cranium’s 2018 LP is fundamentally a remarkably focused work. The musicians are all relentless. Even in the respites from the forward hardcore brutality, the driving sense just doesn’t let up.