Album Review: Controller – “The True Sense Of Strength Within” 7.5/10 (Hardcore)

Written by Ellis Heasley

Controller The True Sense Of Strength Within
Hardcore from Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
Released February 14th
7.5/10

Controller are a DIY hardcore band from Pennsylvania who released their debut full-length The True Sense Of Strength Within earlier this year. Being a completely self-released effort, it’s perhaps no surprise that this album seems to have flown pretty far under the radar for many hardcore fans, myself included. That’s a shame though, because while this record isn’t exactly the most inventive take on the genre, it’s still executed to a very high standard that should sit well with fans of respected up and comers like Thirdface and Gulch.

It’s clear right from the outset that there’s a strong metal influence on this record, specifically from death and thrash metal. Opener “Conditioned” kicks off with a stomping, crushing intro replete with some classic death metal style leads which soon become a consistent feature of the record. These, provided by guitarists Rand and Tyler, add a welcome extra layer to the band’s relatively straightforward sound. There are examples on pretty much every track, but ninth track “Loss” may well boast some of the strongest. The duo’s riff work is equally solid, especially in moments like the absolutely thrashing second half of “Life Of Contempt”, or the more mid-paced headbanging stomp of fifth track “Shattered.”

Lyrically, The True Sense Of Strength Within is a frustrated, furious and at times quite despondent record. The band explore a host of issues over the album’s ten tracks, from seemingly more personal content (“I can’t tell what’s fake and what’s real/Whatever gets me through the day is how I feel”), to broader societal failings (“There’s nothing left for these eyes to see/A crumbled broken world/We are all to blame”). One track which really hits home lyrically is the album’s sixth, entitled “70 Billion.” This one’s quite obviously an anti-meat industry piece, with its title surely a reference to the number of land animals slaughtered for consumption each year. As on all tracks on this record, Controller’s vocalist Laura sounds utterly raging here, with lines like (“70 billion dead each year/When the profits rise, lives disappear”) hitting particularly hard.

Artwork by Evan Zuk

If there is one criticism of The True Sense Of Strength Within, it’s that you could probably accuse it of being a touch samey. Admittedly you could say that about a lot of bands like Controller, but it does make it quite hard to pick out individual highlights. If there is one song that stands out however it’s the record’s eighth track “Manipulation Tactics.” This is one of the longest songs on the album, although it still only clocks in at three minutes and 18 seconds. It actually does quite a lot in that time though, going from a menacing, building intro into a real 90s hardcore-esque swagger, followed by rapid D-beats and a final few moments of slow, crushing riffing.

Even if it is a little samey, with a runtime of less than 23 minutes, The True Sense Of Strength Within sticks to that tried and tested hardcore principle of get in and get out. From this record, it’s clear that Controller have a specific set of tools, and that they know how to use them. They could mix things up a bit going forward, but even if they don’t, they still comfortably earn their place on the ever-growing list of fierce and fiery hardcore bands with plenty to say.

7.5/10

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