The Banner, formed as Bruce Banner in the early naughts, has manhandled the hardcore genre since its inception. The New Jersey outfit followed their straightforward punk EP, Posthumouswith their darkly elegant debut full-length, Your Murder Mixtape, in 2004. Their second album, 2006’s Each Breath Haunted, brought their characteristic horror themes of their sound to the forefront, appropriately flavoring the album with Samhain-style bitterness. Frailty showed The Banner moving in a heavier direction in 2008, edging the album with a distinct, metallic sheen. That album’s explosiveness was followed by uncertainty as the band went on hiatus, only to resurrect itself two years later with a handful of singles that culminated in the Born to Ruin cassette. Tracks off that release, like “Negative Zone” and their cover of Zola Jesus’ “Night,” mixed in sonorous vocals and gloomy atmospherics with The Banner’s Fraility-era bloodthirst. This year’s Greying is a quenching of that thirst, a contemplative work that wallows in its sorrow as much as it strives to overcome it, often times violently. This is a hardcore record, however the band’s usually subliminal gothic tone is emphasized here, allowing for a celebration of darkness in all its forms.

None of The Banner’s preceding albums were ever direct in their approach—always hardcore - flecked with other styles, oiling each with glistening goth undertones. The same applies here, if not more so. Greying, stylistically, moves like a punk record throughout its eleven songs, but detours into shadowy, unexplored territory, as evidenced by the sinister, calculated pace of opener “The Dying of the Light.” Fourth track, “Sunlight,” is contemplative, electronic-laden and borderline post-punk, with baritone croons pouring like cooling wax over a static plateau. Doom-tempo drums suffocate beneath the track’s sorrowful weight, before giving in to the ravenous, anthemic “Unbaptized,” a track not uncharacteristic to their overall sound. While “Sunlight” is certainly a new direction, it clashes with the collection’s overall structure by abruptly dropping the listener from calamity to calm. This slower, moodier technique finds its balance on “Send Me Down,” a track reminiscent of Type O Negative at their most mournful, accentuated by a central passage of hardcore chugging.

“Circle of Salt” and final track “Sunset” carry over the classical horror themes found on Each Breath Haunted, while staying true to the megaton flavor of Frailty. Much of Greying pays homage to their back catalogue while being a new monstrosity all its own. “VIII” warms itself in a Godflesh cloak, greasing their pit churning with biomechanical grace before collapsing into the bouncing, briefly melodic “She Upon the Black Wolf.” “Bones to Dust” finds itself in a similar situation to “Sunlight,” while also verging on classic rock, though this instrumental feels less out of place. While black metal is found in snippets on “Circle of Salt,” it rears it corpse-painted face within the opening seconds of “Sunset.” Occasionally bordering on crust, this satisfying ending mixes Greying’s pallet, bridging wintry fury with hardcore’s fervor before chasing it all with a muted, industrialized thunderclap.

Appropriately released during the time of the year when civilization celebrates as nature dies, Greying is savage and despairing, positing that while life never gets better, this band certainly does.

—Bruce Hardt



Greying dropped yesterday via Good Fight Music, you can buy it here and follow The Banner on Facebook.

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