Rile- Pessimist (Album Review)

Oct. 26, 2023


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Salt Lake City based Rile is likely to be a new name for many of you, but the band’s full-length debut has been a long time coming.  Formed somewhere between 2009 and 2012 (an Exclaim! article from 2016 claims the former, while Rate Your Music lists the latter) by Sam Richards of Cult Leader, this trio explores elements of hardcore and metalcore alongside hints of post metal and sludge.  Their last EP Ethereal Existence came out close to seven years ago, but with the appropriately titled Pessimist they reintroduce themselves with a bang.  Spread out across six tracks that go for the throat some moments with ear piercing vocals and harsher riffs before transitioning over to darker melodic explorations later, there’s a lot more variety and emotion to the attack than you might initially expect.  It does owe a lot to mid-period Converge, but still showcases enough unique elements to make Rile worthy of your attention.

2013’s Destructive Patterns and 2016’s Ethereal Presence set the stage for what Rile is doing on Pessimist, but in all the time that has passed in between they’ve only gotten more aggressive and dynamic.  Opener “Dead End” kicks things off with squealing feedback before launching into a fast-paced attack that blends elements of hardcore and metalcore with some of the grimier tonality of sludge.  It’s a strong first statement that showcases Rile at their most aggressive, especially as they move between blasting sections and angular grooves where the drums seem to churn in ways that threaten to swallow up the listener.  This type of darker hardcore would be appealing on its own, but as you make your way through Pessimist it becomes clear that the band has a lot of other things to offer.  “Climb Out” goes for a more jagged and angular approach to its riffs and drum work, which gives the sound more of a noise rock edge alongside its hardcore roots, while “Hidden From Light” slows things down to a sludgy groove that’s as dark and brooding as it is heavy hitting.  “Stone Tapes” also flips the script, letting the distortion fall away in favor of darker melodies and a more sorrowful, reflective tone.  Admittedly while it’s a good song, it overstays its welcome slightly and I can’t help feeling it’s treading too similar a path the type of melodic break Converge did on You Fail Me and No Heroes.  I do appreciate how it leads into “Half Love” though, as the melody merges with more abrasive riffing for a beautiful yet aggressive take on hardcore.  It’s clear that Rile is able to offer a bit more variation in their approach than many of their peers, and the strength of the straight-up attacks along with the darker respites has kept me coming back again and again.  But it also feels like there’s room for them to fuse these ideas further and push into even more unique territory.

The vocals make an immediate impression with screams and yells that are so distorted and abrasive that they feel like they could punch you through your speakers.  It suits the loud, punchier sound that Rile is going for earlier on, and the band smartly spaces them out, so each verse hits just as hard as the last.  “Stone Tapes” gives a respite from the screaming in favor of softer singing that seems to echo off the instrumentation in a haunting way, coming in somewhere between post hardcore and shoegaze.  This approach continues for the first four minutes or so before the screams come roaring back in, and this back and forth between the melodic and harsh works well.  While “Stone Tapes” provides a nice respite, especially given just how abrasive the screams are on the rest of the album, I’d be interested to see if Rile could use a bit more singing at certain points in the future, as it suits their darker sound in a different way.

Despite the seven-year gap, Rile has come back with an even darker and aggressive take on hardcore, metalcore, and sludge.  Their controlled chaos hits hard yet feels dynamics thanks to the injection of some noise rock and softer moments, though they have left some room to further explore the interplay between the harsher and lighter elements.  It’s a quick burst that has plenty to say, even with some of the tracks cracking the five- and seven-minute mark, and I suspect quite a few people will come away impressed.  I’m excited to see how Rile can expand on this foundation as it seems like they’re ready to head down a path all their own, but hopefully it won’t take quite as long to hear what they have in store next.  Pessimist is available from Church Road Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg