Artist: Blow Your Brains Out
Title: The Big Escape
Release: LP / Digital
Label: Quality Control HQ
Blow Your Brains Out (BYBO) is a Tokyo-based hardcore band that burst onto the scene in the spring of 2019. Drawing from the ranks of Stand United, Soul Vice, Inside, and Civil Defense, the band’s lineup has solidified its position as a cornerstone of the local hardcore scene. With an unyielding foundation in this niche, BYBO delivers a barrage of heavy, hard-hitting grooves and obliterating breakdowns that blend seamlessly with their pissed-off style and politically charged lyrics.
Though based out of Tokyo, BYBO’s writing and performance style is firmly rooted in the NYHC sound, reminiscent of Cro-Mags, Breakdown, and Killing Time, as well as some classic straight edge bands, as three of the band members have played in edge bands for a long time. BYBO already gained traction with their highly acclaimed demo in 2019, but with their debut LP, The Big Escape, they’ve created one of the absolute best hardcore albums of 2023. I’m usually pretty skeptical when it comes to tough-guy hardcore, and NYHC is probably my least favorite of all the styles within the hardcore punk genre, but Blow Your Brains Out is a band that stands out from the pack with an unwavering allegiance to their craft. Their music transcends the trappings of mere heaviness and mosh-worthy breakdowns and enters a realm where authenticity reigns supreme.
While their song titles adopt an English veneer, vocalist Kai exclusively delivers his poignant message in Japanese. His lyrics delve into the unforgiving realities of our world, touching upon themes like authoritarian control, hate crimes, cult brainwashing, fake news, domestic violence, and companies that force people to work in poor conditions, but there are also songs that are pure fun like “The Fighter,” inspired by Silvester Stallone’s cinematic alter ego, Rocky Balboa. Amidst the chaos, a clear message surfaces—our society is awash in deception, hatred and violence on all levels, where structural issues and and global political entanglements defy easy resolution, but resistance remains imperative. The album’s nine tracks advocate for summoning every ounce of our strength, even if it means battling solely for our own survival. In this struggle, a glimmer of hope resides—the prospect of the big escape, someday.
The record was released by London’s finest Quality Control label and the cover artwork was done by none other than Nicky Rat, so you know the drill. If you still get a kick out of Breakdown’s 1987 demo and Cro-Mags’ Age of Quarrel, but are also looking for modern bands with similarly crushing riffs, this album is a must. Along with more metallic bands like Kruelty, this has to be some of the best tough-guy hardcore to come out of Japan these days.