Release Date: 28th May 2021
Record Label: Raging Planet Records
For Fans Of: Converge, Petrol Girls, Birds In Row
Hardcore has become an increasingly crowded space in the last few years. Top-quality acts from all over the globe have been intent on pushing each other further and further with new sub-scenes popping up all the time. Portugal’s Pledge throw their own hat into the game with debut album ‘Haunted Visions’, and while clearly showing their love of the razor-sharp but atmospheric sounds of Converge and At The Drive-In, they also manage to add a few new twists of their own, hinting at their possible potential.
While Pledge do a good job of melding together angular and mathy passages which soon give way to more straight ahead hardcore stomp in the likes of ‘Sudden Urge’, it’s the vocal work of Sofia Magalhães that really gives the band a unique flavour. She easily shifts from the expected frantic screams into a more punk-rock snarl which is put to excellent use throughout the record but is particularly potent on ‘Today I Choose Life’. It goes well with the incredibly raw and ‘live’ sound which is present in most of Haunted Visions, however this is a bit of a double edged sword. Although it means you can feel the energy and ferocity of the band, it does feel like some of the weight is robbed from what could have been an absolutely stomping riff in ‘Yardbird’ with the right production.
This issue aside though, there are moments on the album where Pledge really do deliver as they stretch their legs slightly more and pushing out past traditional hardcore. Closer ‘Ocean’s Depths’ shows off the band’s strong command of atmospherics and a very inventive way of closing the album with a very literal ‘breakdown’ of the song as it hurtles towards its conclusion as more and more compression reduces the instrumentation to little more than white noise Atari Teenage Riot style. However the record’s absolute peak comes with ‘Wrong Planet Syndrome’ which opens up as a synth-led sci-fi cinematic slow-burn, reminiscent of later day Converge, and maintains its eerie atmospherics throughout before swelling to a crushing crescendo. Similar elements are used and hinted at elsewhere on the record such as in the intro ‘Invisible Fires’, but it is the former where the band really try to integrate it with the rest of their core sound, making it the stand-out song on the album.
Metallic hardcore is currently in the midsts of a massive resurgence. In the UK alone this year we’ve seen incredible debuts from the likes of Pupil Slicer and Cruelty which have shown just how far the genre has evolved and hinted at exciting future possibilities. Of course this means that the bar is higher than ever, and while Pledge don’t quite match up, they do share the same forward thinking mindset that seems intent on further broadening hardcore’s horizons and have plenty of fresh ideas and their own unique flavour which makes Haunted Visions well worth checking out.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Wrong Planet Syndrome’
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