Dark atmosphere and destructive energy is what Germany’s Bait have to offer on their second full length Sunburst. Officially tagged as blackened hardcore it wouldn’t surprise anyone that it’s a bruising listen, much like its predecessor was. However for this outing the tough as nails hardcore that ruled the bands debut Cursed Among Saints takes a backseat to the methodically slower and subsequently darker side sparingly explored previously. At first it’s unexpectedly compelling but repeat spins prove it to be slightly overused.
Hardcore, particularly of late, has not been very high on my radar. It has been somewhat of a love hate relationship, mostly due to the prevalent tough guyisms or bro downs than actual quality music. Sure, toughness is obviously an endearment of the genre but then again this is another branch of metal so that’s kind of a given and not an excuse to bow up and fight about anything and everything. There are however, a select few that are consistent in being able to successfully reflect the angst, energy, and attitude that was responsible for the genre in the first place and do it in a way that keeps the listener engaged and wanting more. This is precisely where Bait fell on their debut and do, to a point, here.
Not content to simply linger in hardcore Bait effectively bring in black metal stylings on “In the Absence Of Light” with heavy tremolo picked verses but also in the blast beats of “Inner War”. The band’s breakneck approach parallels Cursed at their busiest and as far as crusty energy goes, Nails would be a close comparison. But the latter of the two tracks also features the first glimpse into the band’s ability to slow things down and methodically create an apocalyptic feel. One of utter devastation and not knowing what the future holds yet strangely bright enough to offer a flickering ray of hope. This is where Bait rise above their previous effort and show a higher level of songwriting. The title track follows suit but that familiar hardcore groove worms it’s way in around the chorus structure. Even though familiar it’s done very subtle and doesn’t fall into any of the aforementioned pitfalls that plague hardcore.
The only weakness of the album lies in the amount of time spent on slower tempos and ominous atmospheres. After a couple spins it gets repetitive and doesn’t offer much variety. “Leviathan II” ends up sounding dangerously close to the last half of the title track and subsequently similar to portions of the rest. Taken by itself it’s an emotional journey that depending on the listeners point of view could sway the feel in most any direction. Which would be a huge plus, but after hearing these same sounds over and over it unfortunately falls flat. As much as the band have triumphed over their debut in conjuring up a foreboding atmosphere they’ve overused it on this effort. A small complaint for sure, particularly when the remainder of the album is a marked improvement over their last, but when the runtime flies by in a brief 26 minutes this kind of detail can fester very quickly.
On Sunburst, Bait shed a few ounces of hardcore and replace it with a few pounds of speed and venom. And even though the slower moments are overdone this still is one of those select few hardcore based albums that actually delivers on the promise of elevating hardcore into the next generation. It’s short enough to knock down a few listens quickly and once it clicks you’ll be glad you put in the effort.