It feels illegal
The list of bands who consider The Beatles to be influential is nearly endless. Yet, the number of bands on that list who fall under an umbrella of considerable harshness is significantly smaller, if at all present in mild numbers. That’s just a small part of what makes the Seattle hardcore act Regional Justice Center so commanding of attention. Another huge part of it has to do with the typical themes the outfit’s main force, Ian Shelton, infuses into each track. The band itself is essentially a concept centered around Shelton’s brother Max being incarcerated. When it comes to their sophomore album Crime and Punishment specifically, it’s a half and half split on the notion of cause and effect. At only 13 minutes long, it’s incredibly effective.
Right off the bat, the Fyodor Dostoevsky–reminiscent album title gives only slight insight into the ways in which RJC explore those topics. “TAUGHT TO STEAL” is just the start of a power-violent onslaught, with drums that communicate a similar adrenaline rush as stealing itself. Shelton makes good use of the implied anxiety this instrumentation brings, rolling with the excitement at its peaks and the hollow fear of its valleys. “DUST OFF” quickly shocks people back into alertness, though—it’s drumming demanding attention like gunshots.
Since the album was produced by Taylor Young, formerly of Nails, there’s an enjoyably uneasy feeling to the whole thing. Take the pairing of Shelton’s sneering vocal delivery with an interesting riff on “ABSENCE,” the slight syncopated nature of “CONCRETE” or rushed jaunts of “SOLVENT” and “VIOLENT CRIME”—you get a considerably mixed bag when you listen to Nails, and Young brings that same energy here. It all culminates on the album’s last and longest track, “…AND PUNISHMENT.” Its martial drumming and stomping hardcore romps beg for a pit as Shelton agonizingly shouts. His vocals are more pronounced here than on any other track, making it truly a high note to go out on.
The whole backstory and schtick of Regional Justice System is one that’ll stick with people, and it seems as though Shelton has given the tracks on Crime and Punishment that same power. Albeit short, the album’s excitable zeal is effective in getting its point across—if Shelton’s intention is to impart similar feelings and experiences to that of his brother, it works.