Genres are like languages; each one has a unique vocabulary that is better-suited to expressing some ideas than others. (Thinking of everything in terms of language is a writer’s curse.)

If you buy the Whorfian Hypothesis, the limits of a language also curtail the thought processes of those who speak it. I’m not a neuroscientist, so I can’t reliably gauge the Whorfian Hypothesis’s scientific plausibility. I do think that the analogy holds for music, though. Stylistic idiom has a way of limiting expression. Imagine a black metal song about the power of friendship. It’s hard to do.

Bands like Pristina excite me because they evade these limits. Like Starkweather or Admiral Angry (who likewise examined drug abuse in their lyrics), Pristina floats in the grey space between metalcore, sludge, and noise rock. Hopeless•Godless, the band’s third album, grapples with the experience of intravenous drug addiction. Pristina expresses this complex emotional state largely with bad-feelings fallbacks—hulking rhythms, dissonance, and spiteful hardcore vocals.

But Pristina’s vocabulary is more diverse than it initially seems. Strewn across the landscape of anger and self-loathing are moments of clarity and even sensitivity. Today is the Day, whose Steve Austin recorded Pristina’s previous album, comes to mind.

Balancing these stylistic and emotional components is no small task, and Pristina sometimes struggles with their usage. (The band’s pervasive Satanic imagery does not jibe with lyrics like “Pills and powder. Flesh and blood. Self-destruction. Losing myself. Grams at a time.”) But the clumsy musical diction does not smother the sincerity and power of the message. Pristina hasn’t shattered any musical boundaries, but they’re battling to establish a unique identity for themselves. That’s a goal worth pursuing.


— Doug Moore

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