Siege of Amida
23 September 2013
by Tomas Doyle
In 2003 two very important albums came out. Future Download headliners Avenged Sevenfold brought out Waking The Fallen, the record that stuck their flag firmly in the ground in the UK, and Dylan Mills, better known as Dizzee Rascal, released Boy In Da Corner. While Waking…is now recognised as a turning point for metalcore, it was the teenage rapper from Bow who won that year’s Mercury Prize for an album which took UK Garage’s dancefloor ready template and gave it an unflinchingly aggressive MC driven slant. Violence, Sex, an impenetrable “fuck you” attitude – these were Dizzee’s lyrical calling cards. A decade on and TRC’s Nation is thick with the influence of only one of these albums. And that – beyond anything else – is why so many people in the rock fraternity refuse to pay the Rap/Hardcore sextet the credit they deserve.
Like it or not, the MCing of Chris Robson is the beating heart of TRC’s latest offering, and your ability to get on board with that element of the band’s sound will more or less entirely determine your capacity to enjoy them overall. But preference asides, there is no denying that he is a compelling, fascinating narrator over the course of Nation‘s dozen tracks; an utterly vicious wordsmith, there is an aggression to both Robson’s flow and lyrical content that is unnervingly convincing. He fucking means it and no mistake.
There’s bravado in spades too, the sort of raging bull posturing that a lot of rock bands (at least lyrically) tend to steer away from but which have long been bread-and-butter topics for rappers of all creeds. Moreover, like a young Dizzee, there’s a deeply entrenched sexual undercurrent to Robson’s words. Almost all his female protagonists are couched in sexual terms and even when he talks about the one female figure he seems to care about on opener ‘3 letters, 4 seasons’, he can’t resist framing their relationship in physical terms. “There’s no sex any more but we text on the regular, she’s a real head leveller” he announces. It’s the second part of that couplet that is demonstrative of what makes Robson’s narrative (and therefore Nation as a whole) such an interesting listen.
Watch the video to ‘We Bring War’ by TRC:
For all the braggadocio (and lord knows there is a lot), we are also let into the more vulnerable inner psyche of someone for whom not everything is as easy as it might seem. “You’ve been playing soppy sad boy bollocks for too long” admits the frontman to himself on the Malcolm Gladwell-referencing ‘10,000 hours’ before launching into the first of several tirades about how it is his band’s work ethic in the face of endless doubters which have got them to where they are today. It is clear that there is a chip on the shoulder, and a weariness at being called a prick on the internet all the time but also a frankness about dreams, ambitions and nervousness at the prospect of photos with fans. Indeed, by the time penultimate track ‘Weekend Walls’ rolls around, Robson is discussing how an emotionally expensive relationship has left him morally bankrupt, though he still can’t bring himself to say that what he wants, in fact, is love. It’s a remarkable vocal performance made even more remarkable by the fact that he is such a unique voice in UK rock music: unmistakeable, uncopyable, unstoppable.
In the face of all this, second vocalist Anthony Carroll feels, if not surplus to requirements, then certainly a second fiddle. His coarse roar is rabble-rousing enough, but he feels conspicuous by his absence on quite a lot of these songs with only a small handful on tracks seeing him step into the foreground. The rest of the band meanwhile pump along providing a pacey, punchy backdrop – for all the talk above of flow, bars, and rapping, TRC are a proper rock band, with Charlie Wilson’s solo on ‘Ex Games’ more Kill ‘Em All than Kano. It’s a genuine hybrid, not a schlocky gimmick.
Listen to what TRC have ti say about their new album:
Ultimately, what TRC prove is that music is changing. The false dichotomy that is constantly set up between rap and rock is something which will be all too familiar to those who grew up in the CD era. When you have to save up for four weeks to buy one record, the decisions you had to make when you walk into HMV quickly become not only important but utterly tribalising. If you liked rock music, you bought rock records; you didn’t mess around with other stuff. It was Boy In Da Corner or Waking The Fallen, your choice. But that era is over, and you just have to check the contents of any 15 year-old’s iPod to see that those walls (and the tribalism they reinforced) between genres have been toppled.
The aggression of grimey rap and hardcore make for natural bedfellows, and just because TRC are the first to drag it into the limelight won’t make them the last. It just means they’re kicking the door in before anyone else. What Nation represents is the changing face of metal and hardcore in the UK – if you dismiss TRC out of hand because of the way they look or because they have the audacity to combine something from leftfield with your beloved rock’n’roll then in truth you really ought to stop playing soppy sad boy bollocks, you dinosaur.
Sounds Like: Dizzee Rascal, Bring Me The Horizon, Nothing else on the UK scene at the moment.
Standount Tracks: Gold Medal Music, 3 seasons 4 letters, 10,000 hours