Written by Ellis Heasley
For Your Health – In Spite Of
Post Hardcore from Ohio, USA
Released February 12th, 2021
There’s been a fair bit of buzz around For Your Health since their inception in 2018. A large part of this is no doubt down to their impressive work ethic. In 2019, they played some 100 shows, releasing an impressive split with Shin Guard and an EP in the same year. Last year they had even more shows planned (apparently at least 160) but these were sadly cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, hard work is all well and good, but will only get a band so far if the music isn’t there to back it up. Fortunately, the quartet’s debut full-length In Spite Of, like their shorter records before it, definitely delivers on that front.
The album is broadly and best described as post-hardcore, but that can mean a lot nowadays. In For Your Health’s case it involves a heavy dose of sassy screamo in the vein of Pageninetynine or Saetia. There’s also an often unhinged mathy touch which isn’t too far removed from the likes of The Callous Daoboys. As well as this, there are elements of delicate math rock, near grindcore-esque violence, and even a point on third track Push The Fucking Rock, Sisy which teeters on the edge of blackened hardcore. That more or less sums it up, and crucially points to a band who know few sonic boundaries. Perhaps most staggering of all is that For Your Health manage to do all they do in just 17 minutes. These pass in barely a breath, but by the end you’ll definitely feel like you’ve been on quite the journey.
One of the most striking features of In Spite Of as a whole is the band’s use of clean vocals. These, delivered by vocalist Hayden Rodriguez as well as several guests, add a soaring melodic beauty which juxtaposes brilliantly with the band’s more abrasive side. They also turn many of the songs they appear on into overall highlights of the record – prime examples including Birthday Candles In The Effigy, Push The Fucking Rock, Sisy, and Abscess Makes The Heart Grow.
Another stand out is the lead guitar work of Damian Chacon. His parts often shine behind the clean vocal sections in particular, especially on Birthday Candles… and You’re So United Ninety-Three, We’re So Flight One Eighty. Moments like these display an impressive level of speed and technicality, without ever feeling like they’re there just for the sake of it and detracting from the overall song. The contribution of the band’s rhythm section shouldn’t be discounted either. Bassist Johnny Deborde and drummer Mike Mapes do a great job of holding everything together, even as the record veers all over the place at hair-raising pace.
It would be impossible to talk about In Spite Of, without mentioning For Your Health’s proudly and fiercely leftist stance. This is never more obvious than it is on the album’s tenth track, Everyday At 13:12, which makes for a scathing criticism of the police – a group who have been in the band’s lyrical crosshairs before. Here, lines like “carceral intent is all that you protect” and “compassion is the brick that missed your precious little head” drip with a spite-filled ferocity that leaves no doubt as to where the band stand. Hardcore was always meant to be political, and while For Your Health’s music may be a far cry from the more primal stylings of the genre’s originators, it’s always great to hear a band who still hold firmly to those principles.
Overall, In Spite Of is a breathtaking record. While it goes to so many places in such a short space of time, it nevers feels incoherent. Instead, every choice the band make makes sense. Many of the songs and sections on this record flow into one another smoothly. Even where they don’t, the more intentionally jarring transitions serve to keep listeners on their toes and hanging onto the album’s every twist and turn. It helps too that whatever musical avenue For Your Health choose to walk down at any given moment is of a consistently high standard. Terms like album of the year are definitely thrown around a little too often nowadays, but the idea that this record won’t at least be in the conversation come year end seems frankly ridiculous.