Album Review
The Austerity Program - Backsliders and... Album Cover

The Austerity Program - Backsliders and...

Reviewed by
The Austerity Program - Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn
Record Label: Hydra Head
Release Date: May 4, 2010
The Austerity Program doesn’t try to hide anything. The guitar-and-bass duo makes no secret of their reliance on a drum machine. They make no attempt to make their grotesque lyrics sound pretty or even slightly, in the academic sense, melodious at all. The rigid, relentlessly steely guitar tone is just about uniform throughout Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn, and the song structure doesn’t venture far beyond quiet-loud-quiet-loud-quiet-REALLY LOUD.

The four-song, under-20-minute EP is as true to the band’s name as a piece of art, a medium that is abstract by nature, can possibly be to the concrete definition of a word. According to Princeton’s WordNet, the word austere means “severely simple.” In The Austerity Program’s case, the definition would work just as well if you switched the words around; it’s as if Thad Calabrese’s daunting basslines are the deep creases in the Grim Reaper’s unhooded face and Justin Foley’s unforgiving vocal delivery is the reaper’s groan telling you everything’s not going to be alright, no matter what they taught you in school.

The music is either incomprehensibly innovative or incalculably obtuse; the tempo barely changes song-to-song and the musical body of the entire EP is a presumably open D chord of varying levels of intensity and volume. The femur-crushing, oppressively low-end guitar bass rhythms are interesting enough to keep the ear guessing at first, but the patterns become borderline predictable by the time the first onslaught of mechanical drum pulses fizzles out in each song.

But austere as Backsliders may be, The Austerity Program’s approach to sharing and promoting their music couldn’t be more lighthearted. The press release the Hydra Head sent with the EP is jarringly hilarious: “Three years after they released their debut full length, The Austerity Program are back with not even twenty minutes of music - a four song EP. You are not us, their label, and so you have no idea how much this absolutely infuriates us.” The band’s ‘about’ section on their sleek, minimalist MySpace projects that same aura of nonchalance: “Hi. If you'd like to know more about us or contact us, please visit www.austerityprogram.com. We will try and manage this site but for God's sake, we got other things going on in our lives.”

In a way, The Austerity Program’s facetious marketing strategy represents the band more than the actual music does. The music almost pokes fun at itself by being painfully and quite markedly oversimplified. Rarely do we see a band sing about such dark, dismal motifs in front of a black cloud of music that’s unpretentious almost to a fault. It’s even more rare to see two married dudes with their lives together make decent hardcore music in between nine-to-fives.

I’ve purposely neglected to take a firm stance on this album until now. To me, an as-of-late merely casual fan of hardcore (or whatever you want to label this particular band), the music is neither offensive nor outstanding. But the idea behind Backsliders, to me, is more powerful than the music. It’s the notion that sometimes just one chord packs more punch than a “45 minute, seven part epic song” that was allegedly promised to the label “three goddamn years” ago. The Austerity Program gets their point across, musically, lyrically, and otherwise, with no more flash or fanfare than is necessary. Whether I’m in love with the music or not, that’s an idea I can’t help but get behind.

Recommended If You Likeausterity; minimalism; hardcore; humor; integrity; not taking serious-sounding music seriously
This review is a user submitted review from losnoufy. You can see all of losnoufy's submitted reviews here.
Displaying posts 1 - 3 of 3
11:01 PM on 10/07/10
Thomas Nassiff
retired staff member
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Hey man. I would like to say that I think you're a hell of a writer, for whatever that's worth. Post some more reviews, they really stick out among most user reviews. It's refreshing.
04:15 PM on 11/19/10
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Hey man. I would like to say that I think you're a hell of a writer, for whatever that's worth. Post some more reviews, they really stick out among most user reviews. It's refreshing.
Sorry I'm just seeing this now...but thank you! I'll be posting a lot more in the coming weeks, especially with school winding down for a bit. But that's really good to hear, especially since that's what I'm going to school for.

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