“That’s what I loved, the faster side of hardcore, and those guys can deliver it.”
You know what they say about burning out vs. fading away, and which path is preferable. But rarely does anyone talk about the third option: making the conscious choice to call it quits at just the right moment.
That’s the direction that Pittsburgh’s Blood Pressure seems to be taking, in any case. The hardcore band is ending things with two year-end shows, Friday, Dec. 28 at AIR, and Saturday, Dec. 29 at the Rock Room.
“I guess we just felt like we’d done everything that we’re going to do,” explains frontman Adam Thomas, who took my call while browsing records at Cruel Noise in Polish Hill. “Better to go out on a high note than to drag something out.”
If he sounds a little bummed, it’s because he is. “It’ll be ok,” he laughs – he’s got plenty of other projects to keep him busy. “But this band was a big part of my life for a while.”
Blood Pressure, which played its first show on New Year’s Eve 2013 going into 2014, originally featured Ed Steck of Brain Handle on vocals. When Steck moved away, Thomas, who was then playing bass, moved up front. But more recently, as Thomas faced one of the darkest years of his life, Blood Pressure served as a particularly therapeutic outlet.
That comes through on the band’s final record, Surrounded, which was released domestically in October on Richmond, Va.-based Beach Impediment Records. It’s the band’s wildest, angriest offering, which – given the band’s rage-fueled catalog – is saying something. From day one, the goal was to produce some mix of ’80s U.S. hardcore and Scandinavian hardcore, and in that spirit, the songwriting is relentless. There are no mosh breakdowns, no melodic slow parts, just pure, unyielding ferocity. It’s a band that always sounds like it’s trying to keep up with itself, holding you on the edge of your seat (not that anyone is sitting down) while everything threatens to spin out of control.
“Musically those guys, they’re the best,” Thomas says of guitarist Eric Montanez, bassist Bryan Toupin and drummer Tom Moran. “That’s what I loved, the faster side of hardcore, and those guys can deliver it.” Mark Shubert, who runs Beach Impediment, agrees. “I once heard someone refer to Eric as an ‘all-you-can-eat riff buffet’ and it’s true,” he writes via email. “Truly an honor student of hardcore punk.”
“And that’s the worst part, for me,” Adam says of the breakup. “If I was going to start a fast hardcore band in Pittsburgh, I already found the right guys. … They were sonically exactly what I wanted.”
For Moran, Blood Pressure was a rare band that never felt like a chore to be a part of. “[It] always got me wound up,” he says. “It’s the only band I’ve been in where after practicing for a couple house I wanted to go home and blast records. It was exactly what I wanted to be playing the whole time we’ve been together.”
One time, he adds, “I flew from Tokyo to New York, caught the bus to Pittsburgh and got taken straight to the Rock Room to play a [Blood Pressure] show. Dumb? Yes, but it ruled.”
That cathartic looseness and breakneck urgency is especially present on Surrounded, which makes sense since – in addition to the mental turmoil in which it was written — it was put together pretty quickly. “On my end I definitely wrote the songs in, like, two weeks,” Thomas recalls. “And we definitely shouldn’t have recorded when we recorded because there are songs on the album that we maybe only played one time before recording. But we were like, ‘Let’s just do it.’”
Even so, “They are one of those bands that just got better with every record they did,” says Shubert. “Surrounded is the perfect final statement on their part – they’re going out on top in my opinion, which is more than a lot of modern hardcore punk bands can say.”