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Hung Jury Records (self-release)

I used to tell people, as recently as a month ago, that I know less than nothing about hardcore music. In fact, that's not really an accurate statement. I've been to hardcore shows, I own a few hardcore singles, I've interviewed hardcore bands. Fact is, I probably know more about hardcore than most local music writers. A more accurate statement would be that I don't like hardcore music. That said, Juror 13 is a hardcore band. The clues: minor key powerchord-heavy-metal guitar, alternating plodding-then-fast bass/drum lines, angry lyrics, and last-but-not-least, grunt vocals. The biggest problem I have with hardcore is that it's not particularly inventive or interesting. Every song sounds pretty much the same with a different angry epitaph thrown into the mix. On Contempt, the second song on the Demonstration 6-song demo, the phrase that stands out amidst the powerchords and thick drums is vocalist/bassist Earl Thornton grunting: I hate you/You hate me. Granted, the guitar line is kinda funky... I can't make out what he's yelling on Us Humans. Slip starts off sort of like a Metallica track (gulp!), Jeff Bowers' guitar tinkles along in a middle-eastern line before it explodes into a the standard metal riff. Sean Millerd's drums keep it all on an even flow. Very heavy indeed. Because of the dynamics, Slip is easily the best track of the batch.

It's certainly tough to classify hardcore -- especially the vocals -- as music in a traditional sense, just as some critics have a tough time classifying rap as music. Ultimately, both are music of a sort. Hardcore is about releasing aggression on the masses; playing violence on guitar instead of on someone's head; moshing. Yeah, you can play it on your car stereo while driving at speeds over 90, you might wanna play it while your pumping iron. But hardcore is not something that you'd want to set a mood with on a first date. And as stupid as that sounds, it sums it up.

Juror 13 are as good as any of the hardcore bands I've heard, from Clayface to any number of early SubPop outfits. Talented musicians all. The recording was pretty solid throughout for a cassette (the band will release a CD version of Demonstration early next month). My hope is that the band will expand its sound as it grows older. A friend of mine who owns a record store in Omaha says kids who grow up on metal are doomed to never understand melody. I think he's probably wrong. Maybe Juror 13 can prove it for me.

Contact info: Earl Thornton, 402-345-5141.  



An anonymous fan replies, no doubt egged on by the band's website:

In your article about Juror 13 you described them and all metal musicians as being uneducated musicians and closed minded. I would like you to know that MOST metal musicians are very smart, talented, and very open-minded.

The thing you don't know about Juror 13 that I do is that if you gave them 30 minutes to learn and cover any trendy radio song of today they could do it.( I doubt without gagging or throwing up, though.) However, on the reverse end, I highly doubt the trendy all-I-want-is-money radio band could cover Juror 13's song in less than a day. Why? I doubt the standard Omaha radio-played drummer would even know how to use a double-bass pedal or do some of the intricate rolls Shawn does on the album. What you described in your article was a metal band that got their instruments a year ago and is now trying to play shows around town. Granted, there are people like that, but that exists in all types of music. Most educated metal listeners listen to all types of music, as long as they feel it is coming from the soul. You will find that a lot of metal listeners love to listen to Beethoven, Bach, and other great classical musicians. The ones I have talked to (many) also enjoy great movie scores like Braveheart, Backdraft, Glory, Last of the Mohicans etc..

As far as understanding melody, I can name one local metal band that I've heard recently that understands melody better than your friend at the music store -- that would be the band Entranced. A couple months of listening to hard core-metal is not enough time to understand totally. It takes years to understand it. I first got into it because it was hyper music and fun to listen to, but now I understand how hard it is to play correctly. Since you and maybe some of your readers have not been exposed to much metal, there are a few national bands I would like you to check out--Hypocrisy, Amorphis, Dimmu Borgir, Tool, Clutch, Kilgore, Solient Green etc.................

When you listen sink deep into their music and notice the complexity. You may not be able to understand the lyrics on all these albums but you will on some. That brings me to my next point the reason some of the singers sing the way they do is because that's what sounds best with the music they are playing.

(I mean Imagine Mariah Carey singing to Metallica's Master of Puppets.)

A lot of metal bands have poems they write into songs that are much deeper lyrics than bands like Blink 182 or Bush. Their growling and screaming is also an art form, the average person cannot get their voice that deep or screams that loud without extensive vocal training, and yes metal singers can actually sing, too [SURPRISED!] If you don't believe me check out some national acts like Fear Factory (album obsolete), Incubus, Tool, etc.

Please check out the bands above I think they will change anyone's view of metal. P.S.: I know some girls that like to listen to metal on the first date.

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Copyright 1999 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.