1999; r: 2007
erhaps no band has been as influential with only two albums. Endlessly anthologized, fetishized, and eulogized, Tacoma's Botch deserve every bit of their posthumous exposure. Last year saw the release of Unifying Themes Redux, an odds-and-ends collection, and 061502, a document of their incendiary final show in 2002. This year, American Nervoso and We Are the Romans get deluxe reissues. Metalcore band Norma Jean are basically Botch v.2.0; many, many others owe Botch stylistic royalties. When you see bands today jabbing math-y angles into hardcore punk, with short-haired metallic headbanging—Botch runs in their veins.
By the '90s, hardcore punk had stagnated into stylized testosterone-fests, all brawn and no brains. Along with Converge, Coalesce, and Cave In, Botch helped make hardcore unpredictable and dangerous again. Instead of breaking down to chugging stomps, songs veered in any number of directions—slicing Slayer riffs, proggy dissonance, sludgy crawls. Lyrics went from simplistically hostile to brainy and abstract. Botch were the artsiest of this new breed, yet their songs were the most memorable.
American Nervoso's reissue is eye- and ear-opening. The remixed and remastered tracks sound absolutely massive. Brian Cook's bass becomes low-end lava; Tim Latona's drums are crisp yet beefy, sweeping across the stereo spectrum with fluent rolls. Dave Knudson's six-string scrapes and slides sound like revving Harleys, falling missiles, electric shocks. Dave Verellen's howl sits perfectly in the middle. Even lesser tracks like "Stupid Me" turn into exploding constellations of dynamics. American Nervoso has always been considered merely the setup to We Are the Romans, one of the great albums of the past decade. However, the incredible sound here renders this record a classic in its own right. Latona's haunting piano coda to "Oma"; the "it's so quiet in here" chant of "Hutton's Great Heat Engine"—these are the mutations that alter generational DNA.
The reissue's extras are more curios than must-haves. The "Extended Version" of "Spitting Black" adds a long intro, while demos of "Hutton's Great Heat Engine," "Rejection Spoken Softly," and "John Woo" are simply rawer, though extremely competent, renditions. That's it for bonus material; the forthcoming double-disc reissue of We Are the Romans will be much more posh. Even without extras, though, this reissue would be a towering monument.