Adverse96 have worked hard to build a following since their formation in 2012. Extensive live work has seen them trek across Europe, sharing stages with 90s legends Dog Eat Dog, ska band The Interrupters and cult punks Against Me. The fact that they’ve managed to support such musically differing rock bands is testament to their huge crossover sound. Their 2023 full length ‘Clear The Lane’ takes in a swathe of melodic hardcore influences, a smidgeon of rap metal and even a few cues from US inspired melodic punk. This huge melting pot of sound often centres around melodic hardcore breakdowns to give the overall sound a common thread, but in terms of whipping up some familiar sounding (and often retro) excitement, it’s clear that this Belgian band know, almost instinctively, how to push all of the right buttons.
Despite Adverse96’s aggressive style, the album breaks the listener in rather gently, since ‘Folded Paper’ features an extended intro that gradually builds up the band’s sound. Grinding guitars jostle against a busy rhythm, before breaking into a riff that sounds like a tribute to the melodic hardcore of Quicksand and other Revelation bands, before a pneumatic rhythm hits like a round of rapid fire gunshots, and the full band launch into a classic hardcore riff. A semi-shouted vocal is a perfect match for the overdriven guitars, and a heavy leaning towards shouty gang vocals provides a strong callback to the sounds of downset. and their ilk. There’s a little more melody en route thanks to a quieter interlude where guitarist Philip Hustinx teases with a cleaner tone, but towards the end of the number, the focus certainly shifts further towards hardcore in the best possible way. With the track ultimately stopping dead, in some ways it doesn’t quite reach its full potential, but with ‘Forevermore’ crashing through straight away, no momentum is lost. With a ringing tone lurching back and forth, this track’s main riff is one of Adverse96’s finest to date, and with the song’s first verse latching onto an almost rapped hardcore vocal, it continues in an energetic fashion. The second verse slows everything to allowing a hint of influence from early Linkin Park to sneak through, but a melodic hardcore chorus sets everything firmly back on track with a rousing gang vocal. As with the opener, variety is key here: the melodic hardcore is eventually joined by a moment of emo-leaning spoken word angst, and the final bars deliver a massive hook that’s more of the alt-rock persuasion, adding a further layer of melody to an already huge sound.
Adopting a harder groove during the intro, alongside an MC styled interjection, ‘Withdrawn’ wrong-foots the listener into thinking they’re in for a massive slab of rap metal, but quickly transitions into a piece of jagged punk that fuses bits of Against Me with the more melodic strains of Rancid. Reverting to type for the chorus, rap-ish elements creep back in and the guitars adopt a much bigger crunch, but the melody never completely moves back to the expected hardcore. Instead, it gives off a vibe of a man doing a rap-like shout over a riff that could be a crunchier Sum 41. Whatever, it still works –and by the time the band bring a tighter fusion of the two styles together for a huge climax, complete with an impressive bass rattle, it actually becomes an album highlight. In a slight change of mood, another stand out track ‘Dead Angles’ allows for something almost funky to take the reins during its intro, and in doing so, Sambo Chhun’s bass gets pushed to the fore. He’s clearly a superb player, and its great to actually hear his work not being dominated by those crushing guitar sounds. The complexities here don’t carry through, unfortunately, and instead, the bulk of the track settles for shouty hardcore where Laurent du Zutter’s angry sub-rap vocals jostle with shouted refrains, whilst chunky guitar lines build up a near perfect homage to a 90s sound. Never a band to hack out anything, of course, Adverse96 add something else unexpected to the middle of this number when slow grooves and a bluesy guitar weave a very emotive melody, which has the effect of making the hardcore sound even more intense upon its return.
Taking an even more hardcore route in places, the enjoyable ‘Confined’ attacks with a hugely pointed riff and relentless gang vocals, but adds a world of melody via funk basslines and very natural rap elements suggesting a love of bands like Juster, before building to one of the album’s hardest moments, with Adverse96 channelling early Biohazard. You won’t find anything new here, but its a hard and fast example of the band attacking their hardcore style head on and winning, whilst elsewhere, the more rap-oriented ‘Ruben Carter’ features a guest performance from Death By Stereo’s Efrem Schultz dropping in with a massive, raspy guest vocal. With Efrem adding extra layers of anger against an arrangement that, again, adds a little funk to the massive hardcore riffs, it’s another number that shows how this band’s crossover sound is almost always the perfect tribute to its forefathers. For punkier thrills, there’s the brilliant ‘Augmented Reality’, which adds a by now distinctive vocal style to a world of melodic hardcore riffs in the Strike Anywhere mould, which allows drummer Maarten Jacobs more of an opportunity to crash through a speed driven rhythm with an impressive precision. This album features more complex work, certainly, but in terms of showing how naturally Adverse96 are able to latch onto a melodic punk core, this track is another highlight.
With ten songs packed into a tight half hour, there’s little room for filler here. There isn’t always a massively original approach, either; about half of the material ends up sounding like a “downset. light”, but augmented by occasional funky bass. However, when armed with such great riffs and some brilliantly heavy breakdowns, that doesn’t matter so much, and Adverse96 bring their love early 90s hardcore screaming into the twenty first century with a massive confidence and relative ease. The bulk of ‘Clear The Lane’ sounds so pleasingly retro, it’s hard not to love it, making it a recommended listen.