Title: Creation and the Timeless Order of Things
Release: LP / Digital
Label: Good Fight Music
Chicago’s Racetraitor are a band in a league of their own. Born out of the politicized revival of the (local) hardcore scene in the ’90s, they set the tone right from the start. With records like their legendary debut Burn the Idol of the White Messiah in 1998, they laid the groundwork for fusing the established metallic hardcore with extreme metal musical idioms. Resolutely and belligerently taking a political stance against systemic racism, the assimilation of art by cultural hegemony, resistance to the state and neoliberal globalization, and of course the white middle-class male privilege, Racetraitor were not a band that was welcomed with rose petals, but with opposition.
Most of the rest of the scene treated them with disbelief from the start. It is worth pointing out that the now legendary We Are The Romans by Botch contains the track “C. Thomas Howell as ‘Soul Man’”, a direct criticism of Racetraitor’s rhetoric. In short, the band’s emergence at the time was accompanied by a radical approach to the genre, both politically and musically, to whose influence they owe a significant share of history.
Racetraitor’s new record, Creation and the Timeless Order of Things, their first since 2018, proves to be a triumphant hardcore album. The band took their time, drawing on both the vacuum and the psychological and social impact of the pandemic to create what they call “a kind of geographical autobiography,” as the album serves as an international manifesto. Thematically, each track engages either experientially (the band members have actively participated in actions around the world) or critically with various social movements scattered across the map, with references to poetry and writings by Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (Rumi), Rupi Kaur, and Saadi Shirazi.
This trait of the album is not limited to the lyrical context. Sonically, Racetraitor infuse their extreme metallic hardcore with oriental music, inspired by the Iranian Shahram Nazeri, but also with the help of the Persian composer Fared Shafinury. In addition to the folk/classical aspects of their music, the 33 minutes of the album also use related scales in their post/sludge metal stylistic elements. The total of 13 compositions on the album are varied in speed, atmosphere and emotion, but manage to present a solid cohesion.
The core of Creation and the Timeless Order of Things is violent and destructive. From suffocating metalcore like Catharsis, Zao and Integrity (“Sword”) to black metal disharmonies ala Plebeian Grandstand (“Black Creek / Red River”) and from chaotic grindcore to mid-tempo horror, Racetraitor emotionally drain the listener in a strikingly modern way. Of course, the key contributions of Dennis Lyxzén (Refused, INVSN, Fake Names), Tim Kinsella (Joan of Arc, Cap’n Jazz), Stan Liszewaki (Terminal Nation), Sanket Lama (Chepang, with whom Racetraitor released a split EP in 2022) and Patrick Hassan (xRepentancex, Temple Guard) also contribute to this. Just listen to the Refused frontman screaming “Two days later we could still see the blast” on the bone-chilling “Pastoral Monolith,” which deals with the bombing of Nigeria—an offshoot of British colonialism—and you’ll get it.
At this point it is worth noting that Mani Mostofi (vocals) and R. Brent Decker (bass) offered a thorough lyrical analysis on Brooklyn Vegan, which is well worth reading. Returning to the musical side, with the majority of the compositions not exceeding three minutes, Racetraitor achieve a lot in a stifling context. The way they are reborn, while sonically demolishing everything in their path, as a voice of solidarity, awareness and faith in the indomitable libertarian spirit that ignites resistance in the darkest corners of history is shocking and moving. In “Cave Of The Patriarchs,” the orchestration elevates a story of rationalizing everyday life under the threat of death, in the midst of war. The frenzied guitar chaos is not just an aesthetic component, but the realization of an artistic vision that triumphantly takes flesh and bones in the music of the record.
The bleak world Racetraitor map out in Creation and the Timeless Order of Things will hopefully find a way out in the mystical post-metal magic of “Cape Rerenga” and the atmospheric finale with “Pangaea Proxima”. Throughout the album, the combination of instrumental bass lines and the drumming of Andrew Hurley (also of Fall Out Boy and supergroups The Damned Things and Sect), as the opener “Eid” suggests, constructs the worlds in which the individual rich ingredients unfold their impressive dynamics. The frenetic and abysmal “Chamelecón” that follows at one and a half minutes does more with its combination of blast-beats and melancholic pauses than one can say.
This is the essence of Creation and the Timeless Order of Things. Racetraitor, did not work “journalistically” or pragmatically. They are not war or cinematic correspondents, but they have kept their artistic identity intact. Their new album is a through the motions experience that does not sacrifice spirituality for the sake of a raw or prosaic, realistic recording. The transcendence of the individual sought by the group conveys a courage embodied in a creative tradition—the artistic child of social struggles.
Racetraitor don’t just compose moments of hell and resistance, nor do they present them in an elaborate framework as documentarians. They communicate an emotional world as they perceive it, in a personal, mature album with high musicality, destined to speak first to hearts and then to ears. They wage a timeless, boundless conflict against various forms of oppression, not to shock but to inspire hope. And they achieve this with some of the best compositions in the extreme (hardcore) sound you will hear in this decaying world.
The Greek version of this review was originally published in Rocking.gr.
P.S. In January 2024, Racetraitor contributed an exclusive, previously unreleased track to the global benefit compilation titled A Homeland Denied: A Compilation for Palestinian Liberation. This extensive digital release features over 120 bands from around the world, united in a cause to support Palestinian children in Gaza. The proceeds from this compilation (over $8,500 raised to date) are dedicated to providing urgent assistance to the youth in Gaza, with all profits being donated to MECA for Peace, an organization committed to delivering humanitarian aid in Palestine.