The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist is the product of Anthony Ivosevich on drums and vocals and Craig Smith contributing guitar and vocals. Together the duo makes a unique blend of crusty and sometimes melancholy punk. ‘You See All Kinds of Things When You Are The Only One Awake’ is the bands first EP and overall release.
Unlike their contemporaries, The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist aim for something much slower, focusing on brooding atmosphere over the fast grindcore-esque brand of hardcore that was pioneered by bands like Orchid. The tone of the guitar is thick and full bodied, at times it feels as though their music has actual density in a physical sense. One may even be so bold as to refer to the music here as ‘sludge’. A good deal of the sounds on this recording are unforgivingly heavy but You See All Kinds of Things When You Are The Only One Awake does have a fair amount of tastefully placed cleanish breaks. A great example can be heard about half of the way through ‘We Bow Our Heads’, which begins with simple slow building chords that evolve into chugging heavy guitars and tortured screams. A clean section interrupts with a simple guitar melody and some great drumming to match before the band continues to elaborate on their dirge driven sound. Another strong example can be heard on ‘William Wilson’ which consists of spoken word-like vocals. These short but sweet let ups really allow the listener to breathe and I understand that sometimes for the sake of mood and consistency, especially with intentionally claustrophobic music such as this it may not always best to give the listener air but do not be fooled, these moments are not light hearted sing alongs; lyrically and atmospherically they are nearly as heavy as the band heard in full force, teeth showing, unrelenting and cathartic as ever.
Perhaps the most distinctive trait attributed to The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist is the cutthroat and downright brutal vocals. ‘Stay Awake’ is an intense affair that is full of some of the most biting vocals I’ve heard in a while, proving that the band’s music lives up to the name. I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys were spitting blood after recording these tracks. There are multiple layers of vocals; overlapping and interchanging, screaming over and slightly out of time with one another which creates a really nice sense of chaos without playing maniacally fast. For a band consisting of only two members they do a really great job of sounding louder than you would expect. It would be interesting to see how these guys hold up live, especially taking into account that they consist only of two members.
The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist sound mad as hell, and it is obvious that they want you to know that with every fiber of their being. Although there is only so much screaming and shouting that one can take before it becomes redundant, in their own right this release does a good job of knowing when to let up and let the listener breathe a little before sinking back into the insanely heavy music that they excel at producing.
Overall Rating: 8.3
Favorite Track: ‘Buzzards’ ‘Stay Awake’ ‘We Bow Our Heads’
Recommended: Think Circle Takes the Square vs. Neurosis