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Review: Piece of Mind, Trilogy (Trip Machine Laboratories, 2018)

Trip Machine once again steps out with a quality contemporary hardcore act that I've somehow managed to miss out on for a few years, this time in the form of Tulsa, OK's Piece of Mind. The 12-song, 28-minute Trilogy LP compiles three prior releases that were only available digitally or on cassette—essentially everything that the band has released to date, sans their 2015 demo. Expect scathing metallic hardcore reminiscent of groups like Harvest, Turmoil, etc. A foundation of chunky rhythms and hard-hitting breaks is scattered with dissonant textures and tactfully caustic guitar work; a good variety of tempos; and powerful, no nonsense vocals consisting primarily of blown-out yelling.

The three-song Harsh Reality EP (2017) gets things started with some of Piece of Mind's most refined material, from the pulsing bass intro of "Endless Lies," through the surging midpaced dissonance of the title track, to the creative melodic flourishes of standout "Judas in Your Eye." Despise/Nation of Fear—another 2017 EP that appears to have come from the same sessions—follows with a slightly faster and more abrasive approach, though "Nation of Fear" does introduce some octave chord melodies and closes out with a nice, forceful breakdown.

2016's seven-song Kiss of Peace opens with an almost Crown of Thornz style of hard-hitting, dark melody in the instrumental, "Worlds Collide." This carries over into the start of "Unjust Society" before giving way to a slightly more stripped down and straightforward take on the sound that the band seems to have grown into on more recent outings. There's still a good dose of variety throughout, though perhaps not quite as identifiable from track-to-track. But there are still plenty of chugging rhythms and ringing chord phrasings peppered with the occasional dash of harmonics—the succinct "No Light," in particular, occasionally leaning in a more frantic direction.

I've got no complaints on the production front. The earlier work is actually a hint more robust with a nice, tight mix and a good sense of clarity; whereas the newer tracks sound slightly dryer. This allows a smidge more room in the mix for the bass to be heard, but the guitar tone—while totally effective—isn't quite as crisp and rounded out. Not a problem, though: you really only notice because the sessions are sequenced back-to-back, and having the bass be even slightly more prominent always tends to be a good move.

The LP is housed in a clean, simple, color sleeve alongside a black and white insert that includes complete lyrics and a couple of photos. The lyrics are darker and more personal than one might anticipate, dealing heavily in misery, torment, and apocalyptic-tinged imagery of darkness and downfall. It's pretty bleak shit, with more than one mention of barrels and bullets to heads:

...In the shadows, blind to all they see
Disguised as you and me, like a wolf in a sheep
Put a barrel to my head, I hear freedom ring
Death is the key for me to be free…

Trilogy is still available on purple-gray-brown "trash" vinyl out of 111, mailorder-only green vinyl with hand-numbered and stamped dust sleeves out of 101, or black vinyl out of 60. As I've said before, in a landscape where so many bands remain content to borrow from Leeway and the Cro-Mags and/or Merauder and All Out War, it's refreshing to be exposed to more and more groups that are exploring different avenues and combinations of influences than whatever the current trends are dictating to be the most "popular." Piece of Mind is definitely one to watch…

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